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PREVIEW: Blades look to bounce back following six-goal thriller

High-flying pair Sheffield United and Middlesborough meet at Bramall Lane tonight, with Tony Pulis’ team able to narrow the gap to only one point if they are capable to dethrone the South-Yorkshire based side.

United squandered their chance to temporarily go top of the Championship table last friday, throwing away an emphatic three-goal lead in the final eight minutes at Villa Park. Captain Billy Sharp had hit a vintage fox in the box style hat-trick against Aston Villa, for the hosts only to leave it late with a heartbreaking end in the tail for Blades fans alike.

Blades boss Chris Wilder was bewildered post-match having witnessed his trustworthy number one Dean Henderson make two blundering errors late in the fixture. As well as, the consistent Jack O’Connell miss kicking the ball to the feet of John McGinn who delivered it into Andre Green, who inevitably stole a point for the Villains.

On the other hand, Boro seemed destined to bounce back with a victory against promotion-rivals Leeds United on Saturday, following their collapse defeat in the hands of Newport County in the FA Cup. Unfortunately, despite Lewis Wing opening the scoring for Boro early in the second half, the Teesiders only had themselves to blame as they we’re unable to hold out Kalvin Phillips who rifled a stoppage-time equaliser past Darren Randolph’s sticks.

Intimidating defender Aden Flint will be rueing his missed chances, who really should have put the hosts in front on two different occasions. But by sitting deep, and inviting pressure onto their defensive-line, Leeds eventually broke their resistance, which may be the case again at Bramall Lane if Pulis has the same intention to drop deep instead of attempting to combat a high-pressure system.

Additionally, Sheffield United may have a cause of concern having only won two of their last 10 meetings with the Teeside club, however both of those victories have come in encounters at Bramall Lane.

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Chris Wilder’s outfit have shown many fantastic performances against the Championship’s lesser powers, but Friday’s missed opportunity at Villa Park was another instance of the Blades dropping points opposite to the division’s elite. The hosts have won just four of their fixtures against top-half sides, with Norwich being the only team in the top-six that United have been able to snatch a point from; leaving an distinct issue.

Similarly, the Teessiders have failed to maintain a consistent run of form, with them only securing back-to-back league victories on one occasion since August. However, this hasn’t sanctioned them out of the automatic promotion race, due to their officency against top-six sides, where they have only faced defeat once.

The visitors have only been beaten twice on away soil this campaign, also coming away from West Brom, and Bristol City, two sides who currently occupy top-six positions, with maximum points. This impressive away form may put them slight favourites at Bramall Lane, as United have failed to win away at any of the top-half outfits.

Subsequently, the Blades are without versatile centre-half Chris Basham due to his suspension from accumulation of 10 yellow cards. On-loan Marvin Johnson is also unavailable due to terms in his contract with parent club Boro. Although, Scott Hogan may obtain his first United appearance due to the same terms ruling him out of the Aston Villa fixture.

Differently, Pulis will have to assess forward Britt Assombalonga, after he passed a fitness test before the Leeds game. Midfielders Mo Besic and Adam Clayton may also return to the starting 11 after both facing lengthy spells on the bench.

Match facts:

Sheffield United’s 2-1 victory over Boro last term, is their only victory in the two-clubs previous five meetings, with Boro winning the other four.

However, Boro have won just once in their last nine fixtures when travelling to Bramall Lane, in all competitions.

The South-Yorkshire side are unbeaten in the last 12 home league fixtures when playing on a Wednesday evening, with the last falling in 1993 losing 1-0 to Norwich City.

Since Chris Wilder has taken over at Bramall Lane, they have won 70% of their home league fixtures when Skipper Sharp has started (35/50) compared to just 27% when he hasn’t (3/11).

 

 

 

 

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PREVIEW: Sharp goes head-to-head with Abraham

Sheffield United travel to Villa Park to take on Dean Smith’s out of form Aston Villa, in a bid to knock Leeds United, and Norwich City off the top of the Championship table. 

With Aston Villa’s playoff dreams slowly fading away, having only won one of their last six fixtures. Chris Wilder’s team have an opportunity to take the Championship’s top spot with a win at Villa Park.

The Blades ride into this fixture in great form, facing defeat on one occasion in their last eight league appearances. Sitting in third, only three points behind Leeds, and Norwich, whilst Smith’s Villa start the fixture in ninth, 11 points behind United.

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Sheffield United will be without Villa loanee Scott Hogan, with the striker ineligible under his terms of the loan deal. Apart from Hogan, United’s squad is in great physical shape, giving Wilder some big selection calls to make.

On the other hand, midfielder Jack Grealish is still out with a shin injury, but is closing in on his return to first team football, following two months out-of-action. Axel Tuanzebe, Henri Lansbury, and Orjan Nyland are all out, with James Chester, and Andre Green both being assessed ahead of the game.

Defender Tyrone Mings is also available for the visit of Sheffield United, as he faces no retrospective ban from the incident which occurred with Nelson Oliveira in their goal-less draw with Reading.

When asked about Sheffield United’s squad, Villa manager Smith, responded: “I know a few of their players, I sold him a few centre-halves in Jack O’Connell, and John Egan, so i know them well and i’m not surprised to see them where they are.”

Additionally, it is evident that the main talking point going into this game is, which of the Championship’s top talismans will come out on top, in the battle between Billy Sharp and Tammy Abraham for the Championship’s golden boot?

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Statistically, Sharp and Abraham are barely separable. Both scoring an outstanding 19 league goals in 24 league starts. The only attributes splitting the two forwards, is Sharp’s clinical nature in front of goal, as 50% of his shots end up in the back of the net, compared to Abraham’s 30.3%.

Although, the Chelsea loanee dominates Sharp on aerial duels won per 90 minutes, proving his height and aerial awareness is much more impressive than the Blades’ skipper.

Match facts

Sheffield United have scored five goals in their last three away games, whilst Villa haven’t kept a clean sheet in their last six home league ties.

Billy Sharp has scored six out of his last 10 shots in the league for Sheffield United.

In Tammy Abraham’s last seven home appearances, he has managed 12 league goals for Villa.

Irish forward David McGoldrick has been involved in seven goals in his last six Championship starts (5 goals, 2 assists).

 

 

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Sharp shines again, as United lace pressure on the top two

Sheffield United boosted their automatic promotion hopes with an effortless win over relegation-threatened Bolton Wanderers. 

Chris Wilder’s side as predicted dominated the first half, and we’re unlucky not to take a first half lead. Scottish midfielder John Fleck was denied in the 41st minute, as Bolton’s Gary O’Neil managed to get a last-ditch touch on the ball to send it for a corner.

However, David McGoldrick managed to put the Blades ahead, connecting onto a low-cross from his strike partner Billy Sharp, following a great showing of pace and strength from the skipper. Moments later, the Wanderers came very close to an equaliser but forward Sammy Ameobi was unable to convert Jason Lowe’s whipped cross.

Captain Sharp then went on to secure the three points for his side, with a close-range header following a set-piece situation, which was finely swung into the six-yard box by Ollie Norwood.

Phil Parkinson’s side may have had to leave Bramall Lane empty handed, but an admirable defensive display in front of immense pressure from the Blades, will surely give them some positives to take away.

The opener from McGoldrick was his fifth goal in his last seven appearances for United, his 11th for the season. Whilst, Sharp netted his 19th league goal of the campaign, making them the joint-most prolific strike-pairing in the division, tied on goals with West Brom’s Dwight Gayle, and Jay Rodriguez.

The three points temporarily placed Chris Wilder’s team into second place, although have recently slipped back down to third due to Norwich’s victory at Elland Road. Despite this, United still sit in a fantastic position, only three points behind both Norwich and Leeds with a positive goal difference over their rivals.

Analysing United’s style of play during the game, they again succeeded at controlling and dictating the play for a high percentage of the match, whilst using their natural fitness and short passing ability to wear down Bolton’s aging defence. Their high defensive-line and constant pressure system, also allowed them to dispose Bolton of possession in their own half, proceeding to an instant counter-attack.

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The high amount of passes completed from United’s back three of John Egan, Jack O’Connell, and Chris Basham, also shows how the Blades dominated possession deep. Using their central defenders to hold possession and command the rhythm of the game, before space opened up in the final third.

Additionally, it can’t be ignored how successful Wilder’s side were at creating goal scoring opportunities from set-pieces. Not only, did Sharp’s headed finish come from a Norwood set-piece, but United won 13 corners through the duration of the game, developing several clear-cut chances as a result.

Furthermore in a game which ended 2-0, United only managed two shots on-target all game, which may seem low considering the amount of possession they had throughout the game. Admitting, this also shows the clinicalness of Wilder’s frontline, with Sharp making a career out of making the most out of few chances.

new-5c-20visual_36039329.pngAgainst Bolton, Sharp had fewer touches of the ball than any other Blades player that started the game, but still managed to bag a goal, an assist, and unleash four key passes. Enhancing a classic fox in the box, Sharp proved his ability to control the action, without even touching the ball, solely through his physical presence and movement in the opposition’s half.

Indicating contrast, Sharp didn’t just show his confidence in-front of goal, but also his composure to cut through a defence with his passing ability, as shown with his assist for McGoldrick’s opener.

Conclusively, following this impressive home display the Blades must now prepare for a trip to Villa Park on Friday, as they take out Dean Smith’s out-of-form Aston Villa.