Verdict: Total goals over 3.5
Best odds: 17/20
Following the confirmation of the dismissal of manager Paul Heckingbottom and the imminent appointment of Chris Wilder in his place, Sheffield United are set to make their return to Bramall Lane, hosting Liverpool in Wednesday’s Premier League fixture.
Sheffield United faced a humiliating 5-0 defeat against Burnley in their recent match, contrasting with Liverpool’s thrilling 4-3 victory over Fulham at Anfield, where the Reds continued their flawless record at home.
Prior to Sheffield United’s visit on Saturday, Burnley had endured seven defeats in as many Premier League home matches during the 2023/24 season, setting an unfortunate record in the league.
In a stunning turn of events, Burnley began their demolition job at Turf Moor within just 15 seconds of kickoff, with Jay Rodriguez scoring the fastest goal witnessed in the current Premier League season. Subsequently, Zeki Amdouni, Luca Koleosho, Josh Brownhill, and Jacob Bruun Larsen all found the net against goalkeeper Wes Foderingham, leading to an outcome that proved disastrous for Heckingbottom.
Despite Sheffield’s board previously supporting Heckingbottom amid growing challenges, the heavy defeat endured on Saturday has certainly accelerated his departure, even with this game against Liverpool coming within four days.
Wilder, who guided the Blades to promotion and a commendable top-half finish in the 2019/20 season, is now back and his return coincides with Sheffield United’s position at the bottom of the Premier League standings.
Currently trailing 17th-placed Luton Town by four points, even a surprising victory against favoured Liverpool may not elevate Sheffield United above the relegation zone. Furthermore, their inability to secure a single clean sheet throughout the 2023/24 top-flight season presents an additional challenge to their aspirations.
On the other hand, the so-called ‘new manager effect’, where a team puts in an unexpectedly good performance as the players strive to impress the new boss, has been known to happen, and the home supporters will surely be hanging on to that hope.
In what looks set to be his first game back at the club, Wilder will be without striker Oli McBurnie, who picked up two yellow cards within the first half of the Burnley disaster.
Also, right-back George Baldock was forced off the pitch after just 25 minutes due to a hamstring problem, making him doubtful for Wednesday’s match. Chris Basham (ankle), Tom Davies (thigh), Rhys Norrington-Davies (thigh), John Egan (ankle), Daniel Jebbison (illness), and Rhian Brewster (thigh) are confirmed absentees for the upcoming game against Liverpool.
Defensive prowess was notably lacking when Liverpool faced Fulham at Anfield on Sunday. Jurgen Klopp admitted his team’s defensive lapses led to conceding goals, but their attacking brilliance shone through with four splendid goals.
Despite Harry Wilson, Kenny Tete, and Bobby Decordova-Reid scoring against backup goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher, Liverpool managed to counter with an own-goal from Bernd Leno, caused by a brilliant free-kick from Trent Alexander-Arnold, a stunning strike by Alexis Mac Allister, a fine finish from Wataru Endo, and a late 87th-minute goal by Alexander-Arnold himself. This victory marked Liverpool’s 11th consecutive win in 2023/24 at home in all competitions and added to the memorable encounters witnessed in the Premier League this season.
Liverpool’s jubilation continued later in the evening with Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur playing out a thrilling 3-3 draw. As a result, Klopp’s men head into the midweek fixtures placed second in the standings, trailing leaders Arsenal by two points before Arsenal’s match against Luton Town on Tuesday.
While Liverpool maintain an impeccable record at Anfield, their recent away performances show a different picture. They’ve only secured victory in one of their last six away games across all competitions, with all ten away matches this season witnessing both teams scoring.
Sheffield United might find solace in Liverpool’s recent struggles away from the Merseyside, and yet, Liverpool boast five consecutive Premier League victories against the Blades. Sheffield United’s last success against the six-time European champions dates back to a 2003 EFL Cup fixture, giving the visitors a strong historical advantage in this matchup.
Like Sheffield United, Liverpool have a new defensive injury issue as well, with Joel Matip leaving the pitch early against Fulham and Klopp expressing a grim expectation over his return to action. The Cameroonian centre-back thus joins Alisson Becker and Diogo Jota on the sidelines, alongside long-term absentees Andy Robertson, Thiago Alcantara and Stefan Bajcetic.
Kelleher is obviously poised for another start between the posts, with Ibrahima Konate, Joe Gomez and young Jarell Quansah vying to replace Matip. With games coming close one after another, Klopp will likely be forced to make further changes, and that’s where the likes of Cody Gakpo, Curtis Jones and Harvey Elliott will be seeing their chance to start.
Liverpool have struggled to show a solid defensive performance away from home throughout this season, and their vulnerability at the back was evident in the match against Fulham. The absence of Alisson Becker, known for his crucial saves, added to their challenges in preventing the opposition’s attacks.
Sheffield United might expect a boost from a potential managerial change, hoping for a rejuvenated performance from their depleted squad. However, their defensive problems are unlikely to be resolved immediately, indicating another challenging game ahead as they face Liverpool’s potent and relentless attacking line. Despite the Reds scoring four goals against Fulham, none of Mohamed Salah, Darwin Nunez, Luis Diaz and Gakpo got on the scoresheet, and every one of them will be looking to set the matter right on Wednesday.
Verdict: Total goals over 3.5
Best odds: 17/20
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