Liverpool host Chris Wilder’s Sheffield United on Saturday night in the sixth gameweek of the Premier League season. Both teams are trying to put some bad results behind them, albeit Liverpool have had only one massive loss this season, followed by them being robbed by VAR in the Merseyside derby. On the other hand, Sheffield United’s start this season suggests they are far from the form they showed early last season.
Liverpool come into this game after having beaten Ajax in Amsterdam on Wednesday night. Sadio Mane’s low cross was turned into his own net by Tagliafico just prior to half-time, but the real heroes were Liverpool’s makeshift central defence pairing of Joe Gomez and Fabinho. With Jordan Pickford’s ill-advised and unpunished lunge on Virgil van Dijk having put Klopp’s key defender out of action last Saturday, and with Joel Matip also ruled out, it was important for Gomez and Fabinho to put up a solid display and they did that. Fabinho even put in a goal-line save to underline his credentials as a defender. Prior to the mid-week Champions League fixture, Liverpool had faced Everton at Goodison Park in a game, where Pickford robbed van Dijk of his entire season and VAR robbed the Reds of three points. Klopp will hope his side has better luck with VAR and injuries this time around, but he will feel confident in his attack. Salah and Mane have scored 10 goals in 5 games between them and are likely to be heavily involved on Saturday as well.
Sheffield United come into this game having ended their 7-game losing streak that started in the last three games of the 2019-20 season. They needed a last-minute Billy Sharp penalty to draw level with fellow strugglers Fulham. Chris Wilder’s side also got off the mark in the league table with that draw. This is a far cry from the side that finished ninth last season, despite ending it with three consecutive losses. So, Wilder is not likely to fancy a lot from this game. Another point, especially if secured at Anfield, would feel like a win for the Blades.
- Liverpool have won their last three Premier League games against Sheffield United without conceding a single goal, winning by an aggregate score of 3-0 last season. In fact, Sheffield United have lost 19 of their last 23 away top-flight matches against Liverpool (W3 D1) with their last win at Anfield coming back in April 1994.
- Since having their league title win confirmed last season, Liverpool have conceded 25 goals in 12 Premier League games, more than any other side in the league. It took them a full season – 38 games, to concede their previous 25 goals.
- Liverpool have not failed to win three consecutive Premier League games since May 2018 (D2 L1), with the Reds currently winless in their last two in the competition (D1 L1).
- Despite their shaky away form, the Reds are unbeaten in their last 61 Premier League home games, winning 27 of their last 28 at Anfield. They have netted 162 goals in these 61 games (2.7 per game), while conceding just 40 in return (0.7 per game).
- Sheffield United have lost 16 of their last 17 away league matches against the reigning top-flight champion, winning the other 1-0 way back in 1971-72 at Highbury against Arsenal.
- The Blades’ poor start is reflected in the fact that they are the only Premier League side this season that are yet to get ahead in a Premier League match this season, picking up their first point of the campaign against Fulham last time out.
Of the almost four goals that Liverpool have scored in their last two games in all competitions, Sadio Mane has played a key role in three of them. He opened the scoring in the Merseyside derby and then was falsely ruled offside when he brilliantly created Henderson’s would-have-been winner late in the game. As if continuing in the same vein, it was Mane’s low cross to Salah that was turned into his own net by the Ajax defender on Wednesday night. Klopp will be hoping that his Senegalese star continues in the same vein of form. Not only does Mane score goals (4 in 4 appearances), but he scores them in important matches (2 against Chelsea, 1 against Arsenal and 1 against Everton). His xG90 of 0.91 and xA90 of 0.19 are reflective of his form and the threat he poses to opponents’ defences.
Chris Wilder cannot hope to outscore Liverpool at Anfield. His hopes of securing at least a point on Saturday would lie squarely on his defence. The key player in Wilder’s defence is Chris Basham. Basham has won 88.9% of his tackles so far, also clocking 11 interceptions, 21 recoveries, and 23 clearances in the 386 minutes he has played in the league so far. On top of that, in a team starved of goals, he has managed to create chances, including a Big Chance. The Blades’ defence needs to be really switched on for this game, and Basham’s performance is likely to define how they perform.
For Liverpool, Joel Matip and Thiago both missed the trip to Amsterdam in midweek with minor injuries and should be in contention to feature. However, Klopp might choose to continue with Fabinho in defence, given that the Brazilian put in a MoM performance against Ajax on Wednesday. From the midfield, Curtis Jones might make way for Thiago Alcantara or Naby Keita. The expected line up: Adrian; Alexander-Arnold, Fabinho, Gomez, Robertson: Henderson, Thiago, Wijnaldum: Salah, Firmino, Mane.
For Sheffield United, Simon Moore and Jack O’Connell were left out of the Blades Premier League squad until January having suffered long-term injuries. Max Lowe is also set to join the list of absentees, after suffering a concussion in his first league start. Ethan Ampadu could return to the side in a back-three to allow Enda Stevens to his usual left wing-back role, while Rhian Brewster will be hoping to face his former side on Saturday night. The expected line up: Ramsdale; Basham, Ampadu, Egan; Baldock, Lundstram, Norwood, Berge, Stevens; McBurnie, Brewster.
Liverpool need to make an emphatic statement, and at home it might be a bit easy too. Sheffield United are a pale shadow of the sparkly side that frustrated a bunch of top sides last season. Despite absences of major stalwarts in the defence, Liverpool should be able to win comfortably.
Liverpool 3 – 0 Sheffield United