The last time these two squared up against each other, Diego Jota was just about to go on a scoring run that would bring him six goals in four matches. That streak coincided with Liverpool’s ascent to the top of the league table and after securing wins in their first three Champions League games along the way, the Reds were flying. It was also a time when Jurgen Klopp and Chris Wilder got along famously. The two men had lavished praise on each other the previous season and there was more of the same after Liverpool completed a 2-1 victory at Anfield.
The two managers have sparred somewhat nastily since then with the ideological differences between ‘big’ and ‘small’ clubs driving that conversation around five substitutions. Jota suffered a knee injury in the aftermath of those exchanges and both teams have slipped into a state of disrepair. United’s form had picked up somewhat of late but after suffering three consecutive league losses, they still find themselves bottom of the table. Liverpool have just lost four consecutive times at home for the first time in ninety-eight years.
Both teams, however, may actually see this game as an opportunity to pick up some momentum. Reds fans will expect a reaction after a rare derby loss to Everton and on paper, this would be just the kind of game that could deliver a first win in five league outings. On the other hand, United will not get a better opportunity to threaten a patched-up Reds defence and secure a first league win against the champions since 1994. With Jordan Henderson the latest player at centre-back to be ruled out, Wilder’s front men may fancy their chances against the expected pairing of Ozan Kabak and Nathaniel Phillips.
- These two teams have played each other 112 times in the top-flight with Sheffield United winning 34 of these fixtures, losing 53 times and drawing on 25 occasions.
- The last time the hosts won this fixture at Bramall Lane was in the inaugural Premier League season. On 12th September 1992, they secured a 1-0 victory through an Adrian Littlejohn goal.
- Liverpool have won the last four meetings between these two sides. However, United have a decent Premier League record against the Reds at Bramall Lane. Last season’s 0-1 reverse at the hands of the Reds is the only time they have lost at home in four encounters (W1 D2 L1).
Even though Dean Henderson was at fault for Liverpool’s goal in that loss last season, he was outstanding otherwise. It was the same in the reverse fixture where a string of important saves helped keep the score down to 2-0. Henderson has since, of course, rejoined his parent club, Manchester United. Aaron Ramsdale came in during the summer from relegated Bournemouth and has struggled to have the same impact on results. One possible reason could be the absence of Jack O’Connell in the back three. He made a big difference last season and the Englishman has been sorely missed. Enda Stevens, John Egan and Chris Basham helped keep the ball away from their goalkeeper in the 1-2 loss at Anfield earlier this season. Only Stevens from that three will be fit for this match and with Jack Robinson and Jayden Bogle missing too, Ramsdale will have to step up to the plate with major injury concerns in the defensive department.
Playing for a team that has been visibly struggling for quite some time, Mohamed Salah incredibly leads the race for the Golden Boot with seventeen for the season. Without ever looking like the player who hit the heights over the previous three seasons, he has quietly accumulated a few goals and has seven goals in his last eight games in all competitions. If Liverpool are to get on the scoreboard against Sheffield United, the Egyptian will probably have to come to the party. Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino were involved in the two goals scored in the reverse fixture, but with their form falling off the cliff lately, Salah will have to carry the goal scoring burden in this one.
With eight players out with injury, and five defenders in that mix, Sheffield United go into this fixture in pretty bad shape. Chris Basham and Jayden Bogle are the latest casualties as both picked up niggles in last weekend’s defeat against Fulham. Kean Bryan, Phil Jagielka and Ethan Ampadu will expect to keep their places in the starting eleven. There are no concerns at the top of the pitch with Wilder having the opportunity to choose from Billy Sharp, Oliver McBurnie, David McGoldrick and former Liverpool starlet, Rhian Brewster.
Liverpool captain, Jordan Henderson, has undergone surgery on his groin and is expected to be out for up to ten weeks. Fabinho and James Milner could be back in training one day before this fixture, but it may be too early for them to play a part in the game. Diogo Jota, on the other hand, has had a few sessions and could be in contention for a place on the bench. Klopp maintained that no decision has been taken on Alisson’s availability yet after the Brazilian goalkeeper lost his father in tragic circumstances on Wednesday. If he were to miss the fixture, either of Adrian or Caoimhin Kelleher will take the gloves between the sticks.
As huge as the injury crisis at Liverpool has been, they should be able to cope with the absence of players better than Sheffield United. The effects of losing so many players could be debilitating on Chris Wilder’s side and while they always give the Reds a good game, this match might be one step too far for the Blades. Liverpool will desperately want a win on the board before a crucial fixture against Chelsea at Anfield during the week. While United may be able to nick a goal against a further weakened Liverpool backline, they will probably concede a few at the other end.
Sheffield United 1 – Liverpool FC 3