After being 1-0 up to losing 2-1 in the dying moments against Tottenham Hotspur, Sheffield United are still seeking their first win of the season when they host Newcastle United on Sunday.
The Magpies come into this weekend looking to make it two Premier League wins on the bounce after seeing off Brentford 1-0 at St. James’ Park.
Paul Heckingbottom has confirmed that John Egan is available for Sunday having had “a full week” in training, he revealed in the pre-match press conference.
Eddie Howe verified that Joe Willock and Joelinton remain unavailable, and they must carefully oversee Callum Wilson’s training workload to ensure his fitness for the season.
Since the beginning of the previous season, only Erling Haaland (Manchester City), with 43 goals, and former Tottenham striker Harry Kane with 30 goals, have surpassed Wilson’s total of 21 Premier League goals.
It’s never a guarantee who’s going to start up front for Newcastle United, with Alexander Isak and Wilson being rotated by Eddie Howe. Sometimes Isak is fielded wide left with Wilson central. If Wilson takes to the pitch on Sunday, his intelligent movement will cause the back line issues. Another feature of Wilson is his pressing ability, which could be a hindrance to United’s playing out from the back.
For Sheffield United, Vinícius Souza will have to be on high alert to stop the excellent transition game of the Magpies when the Blades eventually turn the ball over. The big Brazilian has averaged 2.4 tackles per game and 1.6 interceptions per game, while averaging 5.6 duels [FBref]. Even if it means taking a yellow to stop a dangerous breakaway, that would be a job well done.
Additionally, I have a sneaky feeling Heckingbottom will play a midfield four of Vinícius Souza, Oli Norwood, Gustavo Hamer and James McAtee. If that is the case, Norwood can help out Souza with protecting the defence. Being at home, I would expect United to get the ball down and play through the lines a bit more and Norwood could find Hamer and McAtee in pockets of space.
In the 2023/24 Premier League season, Sheffield United have had the fewest shots per game at just 8.2, which is the lowest among all teams. Additionally, they’ve faced a total of 114 shots, marking the highest number in the division [FBref].
Sheffield United has also been notable for their passing style, as they’ve played the most long passes of any Premier League team this season, totaling 303. Only Luton has a slightly higher percentage of long passes at 19.7%, whereas Sheffield United’s share stands at 19.6% [Opta].
In terms of discipline, both Newcastle and Sheffield United have seen their fair share of cards. Newcastle has received 17 yellow cards, while Sheffield United follows closely with 16 yellow cards and one red card. Interestingly, Newcastle has drawn the most cards from their opponents, tallying 16 yellow cards and one red card received by their adversaries [WhoScored].
I would be a lot more confident in getting the first win on the board if Oli McBurnie was available. Therefore, a change of shape could be in the offing for the Blades – perhaps to a 5-4-1.
Considering that Newcastle had a lesser resting period, and their struggles in the early stages of this campaign, United should be taking it to the Magpies at every opportunity to see just how resilient they are in a hostile environment.
I’m going to say this game ends 2-1 either way.