Sheffield United are hosting Chelsea in a game that could have huge ramifications at the top of the table. The home side are back in the race for Europe, thanks to a late John Egan winner against Wolves. Meanwhile, Frank Lampard’s team are the hunted in third place and need to keep winning matches to ensure they remain in the top four. This should be a clash of styles and an intriguing tactical contest for the neutral.
It has been a remarkable first campaign at this level for Sheffield United. Chris Wilder had to earn the right to manage in the Premier League, while many of the players had a similar journey through the Football League. Many are now establishing themselves as household names and they will realise that they have a great chance of securing European qualification. There may never be a better opportunity. Their victory over Wolves will give them confidence that they can beat an in-form Chelsea team.
Chelsea have overachieved based on the low level of expectation following the sale of Eden Hazard and appointment of Frank Lampard. Many predicted that they would finish in 6th position, but they have managed to secure a top four position for the majority of the season. They need to now finish the campaign off and make sure that they don’t miss out on next season’s Champions League. The club have backed Frank Lampard in the transfer market, with Timo Werner and Hakim Ziyech moving your Stamford Bridge this summer. He needs to show that he is deserving of that faith and end the season strongly.
Sheffield United are unbeaten in five Premier League matches. They have won four of their last five at Bramall Lane
Olivier Giroud has now scored five Premier League goals in his last eight matches. His precious five goals in the competition came across 49 matches.
The Norwegian international has taken his time to adjust to English football, but he has been excellent in the absence of John Fleck and John Lundstram. Sander Berge has established himself as one of the first names on the team sheet with some quality performances. During January, his signing was seen as a huge coup for the Sheffield club and he is now showing why he was highly rated in Belgium. He looks to have the physicality to thrive in the Premier League, with Chris Wilder’s faith in him now being paid back. Against Wolves, he dominated central areas, winning two tackles, completing three dribbles and winning two aerial duels. Berge is combative and able to shine in transition with his ball-carrying ability. A couple of weeks ago, he showed his goal threat with a goal and an assist against Tottenham. Chelsea can be open in central areas. The 22-year-old will have a big part to play on Saturday.
Since lockdown, there have been a number of players standing out on a consistent basis. There will be few that can say they have had as much influence on matches as Willian. The Brazilian is approaching the end of his contract at Stamford Bridge, but the club will be desperate for him to stay on. Following the restart, the 31-year-old has contributed four goals and three assists across all competitions. During the win over Crystal Palace, he had three shots, made five key passes and completed four dribbles. It was an excellent creative display, as he registered two assists. In addition to his attacking quality, he completed two tackles and showed the work rate that has allowed him to become a mainstay under a host of Chelsea managers. In this form, he has to be seen as the key player for the visitors.
John Fleck and David McGoldrick are both facing late fitness tests ahead of the weekend. John Lundstram is back, but he may struggle to oust Ben Osborn from the starting eleven.
Billy Gilmour will be missing for the rest of the campaign. Mateo Kovacic could be back to start in midfield. N’Golo Kante and Fikayo Tomori are both expected to miss out.
This should be a great match, with both sides having the ability to take the three points. The midfield issues that Chelsea have could mean that they do struggle to dominate in central areas. Sheffield United have been very consistent during recent weeks and they have the physicality to take control of these zones. A score draw looks a good bet.
Sheffield United 1-1 Chelsea