This Sunday, Sheffield United will host a West Ham United squad that is dealing with several absences. With this situation the fixture is perceived as a significant opportunity for the Blades to secure a crucial three points on the board, capitalising on the challenges faced by their opponent.
After securing a 1-0 victory over Brentford at Bramall Lane in early December the Blades are yet to win in the Premier League since. In contrast, Sunday’s visitors have gone unbeaten in their last four league games, including wins over Arsenal and Manchester United which have seen the Hammers catapult to 6th.
Nevertheless, the away fans appear to be quite fearful heading into the weekend.
“They’ve only won one game in the last two months so they are due a win against us.”
“They’ll be licking their lips after Tuesday night”
“Don’t have a particularly good feeling about this one. Blades will know we’re significantly weakened without our danger men, and wouldn’t come as a shock if they try to bully us out of the game.”
“I’m scared…..very scared”
“Not looking forward to this one with presumably Bowen still out and us relying on a similar side to Tuesday (hopefully plus Alvarez and Formals at least).
Not sure how we score a goal at the moment apart from a set piece. Can see a 0-0 or 1-0 to them.”
“We’ll do well to scrape a nil all draw.”
“I can’t see beyond a drab goalless draw.”
“Can see an embarassing loss here but hopefully we scrape a point.”
“I don’t see us scoring in this game.”
Sheffield United have experienced the setback of conceding the first goal in 16 Premier League matches this season, the highest in the league. West Ham, on the other hand, have shown defensive prowess, with only Tottenham (five) and Arsenal (six) conceding first less frequently than their seven instances.
Despite facing a substantial 77 shots in their last four Premier League games, West Ham have impressively maintained clean sheets. This achievement is notable, considering they last achieved five consecutive league clean sheets during the 1990/91 season.
In the earlier part of the season under Paul Heckingbottom, Sheffield United struggled defensively, averaging 2.8 goals conceded, 19.0 shots faced, and 2.23 expected goals against (xGA) per game in 14 Premier League matches. However, since Chris Wilder’s return, they have significantly improved, reducing those averages to 1.7 goals conceded, 13.7 shots faced, and 1.52 xGA per game over six league fixtures.
Despite the defensive improvements, Sheffield United still leads the league in goals conceded from crosses, totaling 13 this season. In contrast, West Ham’s James Ward-Prowse stands out as the top provider of assists via crosses, contributing to five goals this term.
Meanwhile, Oli McBurnie has achieved a notable feat by scoring in each of his last three home Premier League appearances for Sheffield United, setting a new club record for consecutive scoring appearances at Bramall Lane in the competition. However, despite his individual success, the unfortunate distinction is that he has ended up on the losing side in all three games. This makes McBurnie the sole player in Premier League history to experience this unique and unfortunate sequence of results for any club.
I can see this game lacking any type of flow and resulting in a scrappy match to watch. But, given West Ham will be without their best players I’d be extremely disappointed if Sheffield United can’t at least get a point from this one.
As long as the Blades stay strong against the delivery of James Ward-Prowse I don’t envisage the away team scoring. On the other hand, I think they will be difficult to break down. That being said I’m predicting a clean sheet and a victory for Sheffield United.