West Ham United vs Sheffield United – preview

Sheffield United travel to the London stadium to take on West Ham United on Saturday afternoon, off the back of a record defeat last weekend. 

The Blades had given a good account of themselves prior to last Sunday, even without registering a win. But now the pressure is on Paul Heckingbottom to get a positive result against West Ham. 

David Moyes’ side had started the season incredibly well, being near the top of the league, but have since been brought back down to earth with back-to-back 3-1 defeats to Manchester City and Liverpool.

Team news

Sheffield United’s manager Paul Heckingbottom looks on during the English Premier League football match between Sheffield United and Newcastle United at Bramall Lane in Sheffield, northern England on September 24, 2023. (Photo by Darren Staples / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or ‘live’ services. Online in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No video emulation. Social media in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No use in betting publications, games or single club/league/player publications. / (Photo by DARREN STAPLES/AFP via Getty Images)

Paul Heckingbottom revealed in his pre-match press conference that Gustavo Hamer was carrying a knock last week despite playing on Sunday, but he has improved his status. John Fleck has also began to train following his leg fracture in pre-season.

The only injury doubt for David Moyes is Aaron Cresswell who has been suffering from a hamstring injury. West Ham played on Wednesday evening in the Carabao Cup and rested several key first-team players.

Difference makers 

The obvious difference maker for the Hammers is James Ward-Prowse. Since signing from Southampton in the summer, the midfielder has started five Premier League games scoring twice and assisting three times for his new teammates. He also registered two assists in the Europa League game against TSC [SofaScore]. 

Ward-Prowse’s trademark corner deliveries have resulted in four of his five assists for the Hammers, and with how Sheffield United have defended corners so far he could increase those numbers at the weekend.

West Ham has generated 15 shooting opportunities from set-piece situations. In contrast, Sheffield United stands as the team that has allowed the highest number of shots from dead-ball situations, with a total of 24, leading to three conceded goals [FBref].

For the reasons above, I’m going to select Oli McBurnie as Sheffield United’s difference maker on Saturday. The Blades missed McBurnie’s presence against Newcastle at the top of the pitch as well as in United’s box to defend corners. In his absence United were bullied from set pieces, ultimately conceding two goals from them. 

McBurnie excels in aerial duels, ranking in the 96th percentile across the top five leagues and European competitions with 6.82 per 90 and a 50% win rate [FBref]. His strength and tenacity aids Sheffield United’s ability to hold possession in advanced positions. Without him, longer passes from the defence often result in the opposition regaining possession, setting the stage for continuous pressure on the Blades’ goal.

Additionally, McBurnie’s knack for drawing fouls, averaging 1.5 per 90 [FBref], may not be the highest, but his ability to use his physicality to induce defenders into fouls provides United with opportunities to have a breather and a mental reset.


Saturday afternoon is going to be a crucial game in Sheffield United’s season; after being obliterated last weekend, they can’t afford another heavy defeat. The Blades will be fearful even before a ball is kicked knowing that their most noticeable weakness is West Ham United’s biggest strength. It will be interesting to see how those situations pan out. 


Tags Preview Sheffield United West Ham