There have been seeds of encouragement at Stamford Bridge since the international break. Chelsea have lost only once this season, but the most pleasing development for Frank Lampard has been the improvement at the back. They have five successive clean sheets and the arrival of Edouard Mendy has been crucial in that. On Saturday, they host Sheffield United, one of three Premier League teams without a victory. A victory this weekend will put them into a great position and the Blues will be able to reflect positively on their start to the season.
The pressure was huge on Lampard going into this season, following the big summer spending spree. It has taken some time for the team to settle, but the manager is now starting to gain an understanding of his strongest eleven. Reece James and Ben Chilwell look like they could be the full-backs at Stamford Bridge for the next decade. Edouard Mendy, Thiago Silva and Kurt Zouma are starting to build an understanding. Meanwhile, Hakim Ziyech and Timo Werner are beginning to find their form. It is important that this progress continues with three points on Saturday, as the Blues try to move up the league table.
It has been a challenging start to the season for Sheffield United. Last season, they were regarded as a breath of fresh air, with Chris Wilder introducing some interesting tactical themes to the top flight. However, it does look like second season syndrome has struck, with just one point from seven matches. The big issue has been scoring goals, as they have found the back of the net on just three occasions. Two of their goals have come from the penalty spot. They are also missing Jack O’Connell, which has impacted on their build-up play. There is nothing to lose this weekend, but they need to start picking up points sooner rather than later.
This is the first time that Chelsea have kept five successive clean sheets across all competitions since October 2010.
Sheffield United have picked up just one point from their first seven league matches. This is their worst start to a league campaign since 1975-76.
The new signing from Ajax has had to wait for his chance due to injury, but he now looks to be one of the first names on the team-sheet. A major reason for his signing was the creativity he can offer from midfield. He will be the midfielder expected to set the tempo and create chances for others. Timo Werner, Kai Havertz and Christian Pulisic can all create, but they are more suited to attacking the goal directly. They will all benefit from playing alongside the Moroccan international. Last weekend, he got a goal and an assist against Burnley, which will give him a lot of confidence going into the rest of the season in a new league. The sample size isn’t big enough to draw any conclusions from his underlying numbers, but the early indications are that he will be a pivotal player for Lampard’s Chelsea. The absences of Pulisic and Havertz this weekend will mean that the 27-year-old will be even more important than usual. Sheffield United are a determined defensive team and they will be difficult to break down. In Ziyech, the home side have a player that can unlock them and have a game-changing impact.
The Norwegian international is going to be important for Sheffield United in the coming months, with John Lundstram set to leave the club. It has nearly been a year since Berge joined Sheffield United and he will be looking to enhance his reputation in England now that he has settled. There is a feeling that Berge can develop his game further and become more of an attacking threat. Wilder likes his midfielders to drive forward into the penalty box. So far this season, he is averaging 1.5 interceptions and tackles per game. It will be important that he gets stuck in on Saturday, as Chelsea are likely to dominate the ball for long periods. There is a lot more to come from the talented 22-year-old and that could begin at Stamford Bridge.
Christian Pulisic is unlikely to be risked, as he continues to suffer with injury. He should be back following the international break. Kai Havertz will be missing after testing positive for Covid-19.
Sheffield United will still be missing John Fleck, Lys Mousset and Jack O’Connell for the trip to Stamford Bridge. Ethan Ampadu won’t be available to face his parent club.
This should be an excellent opportunity for Chelsea to close the gap to the sides above them. Sheffield United remain a very accomplished team, despite their poor run of results and they could cause problems for the home side. Following the lockdown, Sheffield United managed to beat Chelsea and they will take confidence from that meeting. A similar performance could see them triumph on Saturday. That said, the home side are better organised now and that should mean they have enough to take the three points.
Chelsea 2-0 Sheffield United