If our trip to Arsenal saw us place a team on the up at just the wrong time, this one is the absolute opposite.
Not only have Sheffield United failed to win a single Premier League game all season (cursed it, haven’t I?!), they’ve lost 15 of 17 so far and could also be without a few key players for Tuesday night’s match up at Bramall Lane.
They’ll be fighting for their life, probably knowing this is an absolute must win if they’re to have ANY hope of pulling off the great escape, but there is absolutely no reason why we shouldn’t be winning this game.
After Steve Bruce said in his Monday morning presser that we’ll need to be “at our best” to beat this “very good” Blades side, we’ll have to hope we not only match the application shown at The Emirates on Saturday but this time give the opposition much more to think about in attack. After all, Bruce’s head will be on the chopping block like never before if we hand a blunt Blades side their first win of 2020/21 – a result that would well and truly suck us into a potential relegation scrap!
This isn’t the game for a low-block and backs against the wall approach, this is a game where we must get at them from the off and make sure we come away with all three points.
- Dubravka & Darlow – Steve Bruce has admitted he has an “awful” dilemma deciding who to start, suggesting he still doesn’t know who he’ll go with now both are fully fit.
- Wilson & Shelvey – Both missed out at Arsenal as a “precaution” and are expected to return vs Sheffield United.
- Schar & Fernandez – Bruce has confirmed will play after a rest over the weekend.
- Jamaal Lascelles – Made his return at Arsenal but was taken off at half-time through “fatigue”. Highly doubt he’ll start this one if he’s still feeling the after effects of COVID.
- Ryan Fraser – Bruce’s is “hoping” he’s fit to play after a few weeks out with a groin injury. If he features, it’ll most likely be from the bench.
- Jamal Lewis – No update on him in Bruce’s presser. Missed our last two with an injury but has been tipped to return this week, making him one to watch when the team sheets are released on Tuesday night.
- Allan Saint-Maximin – Set to miss out once again. He’s back in the country but won’t be match fit for another few weeks it seems.
For the hosts, it looks late fitness tests will be needed for Stevens, Baldock, Sharp, Jagielka and Mousset, with midfield star Sander Berge a long-term absentee.
Predicted line up
(5-2-2-1): Darlow – Yedlin, Fernandez, Schar, Clark, Ritchie – Hayden, Shelvey – Murphy, Almiron – Wilson.
OUT – Dubravka, Krafth, Lascelles, Dummett, Hendrick, S Longstaff, Joelinton and Carroll?
IN – Darlow, Yedlin, Fernandez, Schar, Ritchie, Shelvey, Murphy and Wilson?
After resting a whole host over the weekend, Bruce seems likely to ring the changes here and hand starts to several rested stars.
I can see the defence being exactly as it was against Man City, Liverpool and Leicester, with the one positive from those three games being we actually looked pretty solid in all of them against strong opposition.
I’d personally prefer to see us go back to a four-man defence in this one and set up with a slightly more attacking formation, but with Lewis appearing to miss training on Monday and Dummett playing 120 minutes on Saturday after so long out, we’re short on left-back options (Ritchie is OK at wing-back but not suited to being on the left of a back four).
In midfield, I feel like Matty Longstaff deserves another chance and has added some much needed energy to our midfield in recent weeks, however I think Bruce will hand Shelvey a recall, with Hayden helping make up for his lack of mobility.
It’d be a risk that could backfire – especially when Matty’s given us another dimension – but I reckon Bruce will feel Shelvey’s creativity could be key against a struggling Blades side.
It’s also worth noting he scored in this fixture last season and ran the show when we beat them 3-0 in that emphatic win in June during Project Restart.
Out wide, I think Joelinton may be taken out of the firing line after another sloppy display over the weekend and believe it could be Murphy that gets a chance to shine. He created a few chances during his cameo appearance against Arsenal and could well be given the nod alongside Almiron if Fraser is only deemed fit enough for the bench.
In between those two, it has to be Callum Wilson. He’s been given a rest and is the main man who can do damage to a brittle Sheffield United back line. Carroll was brilliant against Arsenal (aside from a few big misses), however he surely won’t start so soon after running himself into the ground for over 90 minutes?
I have mixed thoughts ahead of this one.
In one sense I feel we’ve looked more solid in our last four games and was impressed by our application at Arsenal, but we’ve scored the harsh facts are we’ve scored ONE goal from open play in the last EIGHT hours of football and come into this with just one win in our last seven.
I think Sheffield United will be at it and looking to kickstart their season here, but I don’t think that will be enough to beat us.
Hoping we have too much and come away with a much needed win, yet fearing we’ll be blunt against a battling Blades side.
Prediction: Sheffield United 1-1 Newcastle