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Monday, 17 December, 2018

Swansea set for difficult start to life in the Championship

No magic wand for Potter with relegated side

Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder
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Sky Sports Main Event/Football, 5.30pm Saturday

It has been a difficult summer for Swansea after their relegation from the Premier League and they face a tough start to life in the Sky Bet Championship against Sheffield United at Bramall Lane.

Graham Potter, who did such a masterful job at Ostersunds in Sweden, looks a sensible managerial appointment for the Welsh club, who lost their way in the Premier League, but he is likely to need time to adjust with so many changes at the Liberty Stadium.

A dozen players have already left, some of them more important than others, and the exodus is set to continue with Jordan Ayew not training as he lines up a potential switch to Crystal Palace and Sam Clucas on the verge of joining Burnley.

Once those higher-earners are off the wage bill Potter can get to work on his important incomings and Brentford's Ryan Woods would be a great place to start with the midfielder reportedly close to joining for £6m.

However, for now the Swans squad is in flux and Potter is left with the difficult juggling act of deciding which players are mentally able to feature despite rumours of a transfer.

Centre-back Federico Fernandez is one of those and left-back Martin Olsson could be thrown into the side despite only just having returned to training following a post-World Cup holiday.

Olsson appears certain to start as Matt Grimes, once seen as the Football League's version of Glenn Hoddle, has been used at left-back during pre-season and as a wing-back when Potter attempted a three-man defence in some friendlies.

There's no magic wand for Potter and his central midfield appears particularly lightweight with Tom Carroll alongside Jay Fulton and in terms of goals they are relying on youngsters.

Wide players Joel Asoro (aged 19) and Barrie McKay (23) are new arrivals this summer and they, along with inconsistent playmaker Bersant Celina (21), are charged with supplying the opportunities for 22-year-old striker Oli McBurnie.

United, who finished a solid tenth in the Championship last season after promotion, will begin this term from a much stronger footing and should hit the ground running with the foundations put in place over the last couple of years under Chris Wilder.

Minor adjustments have been made with centre-back John Egan arriving from Brentford while Manchester United, Manchester City and Liverpool have been raided for young talents Dean Henderson, Kean Bryan and Ben Woodburn.

Henderson and Bryan were excellent in League One for Shrewsbury and Oldham respectively last season, while Woodburn is Liverpool's youngest ever goalscorer and the second-youngest in the Welsh ranks behind Gareth Bale.

Last season's relegated trio Hull, Sunderland and Middlesbrough were all beaten at Bramall Lane and Swansea could be next.

Sheffield United
1pt 5-4 general

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Team news
Sheffield United
Paul Coutts remains unavailable after breaking his leg in November and Jake Wright is unlikely to feature.

Leroy Fer and Wilfried Bony are unavailable, while Kyle Naughton is doubtful. Mike van der Hoorn should recover from a minor groin issue.

Key stat
Sheffield United started last season with seven wins in their opening eight matches. 

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Last season's relegated trio Hull, Sunderland and Middlesbrough were all beaten at Bramall Lane and Swansea could be next
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