Sheffield United and Tottenham are in a similar position, but they will have differing aims for the rest of the season. The pressure remains on the away side to challenge for a Champions League place. This will increase if Manchester City’s ban is upheld by CAS, as 5th position would be enough to clinch it. They are currently seven points behind Wolves, albeit with a game in hand. Jose Mourinho will know that his team need to be near perfect in order to get close to this aim. For Chris Wilder, he will just want to see his team get back to the standards they showed before lockdown. There has been talk of European qualification, but they will not be focused on that.
The old adage says to take each game as it comes and Sheffield United will be doing this. They have been a breath of fresh air since promotion, with Wilder introducing new tactical trends to the top flight. Since the restart, they have drawn one and lost three. This is an underwhelming record for a team some expected to challenge for the top six. However, the manager has been keen to dampen expectations with many of the players in their debut Premier League season. There were signs of improvement in the FA Cup against Arsenal. Supporters will hope for a similar performance on Thursday and an even better result.
Tottenham managed to get a crucial win against West Ham to put an end to a poor run of form extending before the lockdown. It was a good performance that saw Harry Kane get back to the score-sheet. This came just days after Mourinho disagreed with criticism over how he manages strikers. It will be hoped that Spurs’ striker can push on over the coming weeks and fire the team up the table. They will be well rested following a break during the FA Cup weekend, which gives them a slight advantage.
Sheffield United have lost three matches in a row across all competitions for the second time in Chris Wilder’s tenure as manager.
Harry Kane has scored 137 times in his 200 Premier League appearances. The only player to score more in their first 200 in the competition is Sergio Aguero with 138.
The Scottish international has been one of the standout performers in the Sheffield United team this season. It is his first campaign at this level and he has already achieved his best return for goals. Fleck has scored five times in the Premier League, which is more than his previous two seasons in the Championship combined. Albeit, he achieved 17 assists during this period and he has only registered two in the top-flight. The 28-year-old provides the forward drive from central areas and often looks to get into the penalty area to offer a goal threat. Tottenham have had issues in central area and have only recently settled on a defensive pairing. It is a position where they are at risk. Wilder will be hoping that his team can get a lot of joys in these areas. Fleck is the player that can cause real damage in the attacking half, if he does perform to his usual high standard.
In away matches, Son Heung-min is arguably a bigger threat than Harry Kane, due to the space he is afforded to run into. Sheffield United play with three in defence, with wing backs, but they can sometimes struggle to contain dynamic players. In one of their earlier post-lockdown fixtures, Matt Ritchie and Allan Saint-Maximin got a lot of joy down their left-hand side. Mourinho will have seen this and it could be an area he targets on Thursday night. Son has the intelligence to move into space and the quality on the ball to create big goal-scoring chances for himself. In their last fixture, he showed this on a couple of occasions, with excellent movement to find space in behind against West Ham. Following more than a week of rest, the South Korean should be ready to make a big contribution against the Blades.
John Lundstram is a major doubt after suffering an injury against Arsenal in the FA Cup. Sander Berge is expected to step into his place. Jack O’Connell isn’t expected to be back for this match.
Tottenham don’t have any major injury concerns. Fringe players Japhet Tanganga, Troy Parrott and Juan Foyth won’t be available.
Sheffield United showed major improvements at the weekend and they will be hoping for a similar performance against Tottenham. In the reverse fixture, they were unfortunate not to take the three points. That said, Spurs will be well rested for the game after over a week without a fixture. That freshness and time on the training ground should give them the edge.
Sheffield United 1-2 Tottenham