Nigel Clough has a bit of a dilemma on his hands - but, thankfully for him and Burton Albion, it's one that most managers would like to have.

With the international break giving Clough and backroom staff Gary Crosby and Andy Garner some much-needed thinking time, one of the major questions that will be on their minds is just who starts in midfield against Sheffield United on Friday night?

The Brewers have tried plenty of combinations in the centre of the park in the first 16 games of the season.

Hope Akpan, Jamie Allen, Luke Murphy, Matty Lund and Matt Palmer are locked in a battle to secure one of the three spots in centre midfield currently on offer.

Matty Lund in action for Burton Albion
Matty Lund in action for Burton Albion

And that's without adding the impressive performances of Lucas Akins that we saw in the unusual - for him - position on the right-hand side of Murphy against both Norwich City and QPR.

Even Kyle McFadzean, albeit for a brief period against Leeds United, has been tried out in the middle, while Clough told Tom Naylor early in the season that his chances were likely to come in the back four rather than in midfield.

It all suggests that Clough is open-minded about his options as the Brewers' bid to beat the drop to League One.

"We've got some good options in there at the moment," said Clough.

Burton Albion manager Nigel Clough is pleased with the options he has available to him
Burton Albion manager Nigel Clough is pleased with the options he has available to him

"I'd say Luke Murphy is the only one, not guaranteed a place, but as close as you can be."

Murphy continues to ooze the class he did last term – and the fact he is almost certain of a spot indicates his worth to the side.

When he clicks, the side clicks.

But what of the other four fighting it out for a starting spot?

Luke Murphy in action for Burton Albion
Luke Murphy in action for Burton Albion

Allen, who started so well following his deadline-day move from Rochdale, has tailed off over the last few games as the Brewers went on an eight-match winless run.

But Clough put that down to him suffering from a couple of minor injuries, opening the door to fellow ex-Rochdale man Matty Lund to take his chance and impress.

And he has done just that.

Clough said Lund had been out of sorts after returned from a stint with Northern Ireland in October, although he had showed glimpses of promise before picking up a shoulder injury in August's 2-1 win over Birmingham City.

Matty Lund looks to get Burton Albion on the front foot

In the last three games, he has shown Brewers fans exactly what he can do, dominating possession, being strong in the air, driving forward and putting his team on the front foot.

How Northern Ireland could have done with some of that attacking impetus on Thursday night against Switzerland.

Lund still has to adapt to the speed of the Championship, although a couple of times in last weekend's 1-0 win over Millwall he robbed the Lions of possession before breaking forward at speed.

But - whether it be down to the change in pace of League One compared to the Championship - once he adjusts to that we shall see the best of what he has to offer alongside Murphy.

Matty Lund bursts forward in the 1-0 win at Millwall

Lund's performances mean he is surely one of the first names on the team-sheet for Friday night.

Which leaves Akpan, Allen and Palmer to battle it out this week in training for the chance to show Clough that they deserve to take the other slot.

Barnsley's Joe Williams nominated for goal of the month award for stunner against Burton Albion

Summer signing Akpan has, in all honesty, failed to take his chances this term and he is not likely to feature. If that proves to be the case, it is a toss-up between Allen and Palmer.

And that is quite a tough choice, given that they are relatively similar players. With Allen struggling of late, it would arguably be wise for Clough to stick with fan-favourite Palmer for the visit of the second-placed Blades.

Hope Akpan in action for Burton Albion
Hope Akpan in action for Burton Albion

He showed all the qualities we know he has in his locker, from dictating possession to playing that killer ball when it matters, on his return to the side against Millwall.

"The good thing is that it's one of our strengths," Clough said of his midfield depth.

It certainly is and now it's up to those fighting it out for a place in the middle next week to show it.