We are into the final four games of the Premier League season and there is still plenty at stake.
The surprise package of the season, Sheffield United, play host to an improving Chelsea side in the early evening kick-off on Saturday, with both sides’ European ambitions still very much alive and in their own hands.
The Blues have put disappointment behind them with consecutive wins, after their defeat to West Ham. The latest of which was an enthralling encounter at Crystal Palace on Tuesday, where despite a second half comeback from the Eagles, Frank Lampard’s side held on to leapfrog Leicester into third spot, for the first time this season.
Sheffield United – who sit seventh – have hit back after a shaky return to the restart. Despite some high profile injury absentees, they have ground out results with the same grit and nouse we saw before lockdown and it’s a testament to Chris Wilder that he hasn’t allowed his side to slip out of the race for Europe despite the lack of Bramall Lane’s roar of encouragement to spur them on.
When Is Kick Off? Saturday 11 July
What Time Is Kick Off? 17.30 (BST)
Where Is it Played? Bramall Lane
TV Channel/Live Stream? Sky Sports (UK), FuboTV (US)
Referee? Andre Marriner
Sheffield United will be without key midfielder John Fleck who has sat out the last three games – although he has returned to training. John Lundstram was named on the bench in the win against Wolves but has had a painkilling injection in his arm injury and may not be risked from the start. Luke Freeman remains out but striker David McGoldrick could return after a foot problem.
Chelsea will likely be without N’Golo Kante who suffered a hamstring injury against Watford and won’t be risked too soon. Mateo Kovacic could return after sitting out the last two games with an achilles problem but defender Fikayo Tomori is still a week or so from a return.
Billy Gilmour, who started the win over Palace is likely out for the rest of the season.
Sheffield United: Henderson; Basham, Egan, O’Connell; Baldock, Osborn, Norwood, Berge, Stevens; McBurnie, Sharp
Chelsea: Arrizabalaga; James, Christensen, Zouma, Azpilicueta; Barkley, Kovacic, Mount; Willian, Giroud, Pulisic
Sheffield United have found their mojo again with seven points from their last three games and with the return of Jack O’Connell to the defence, look far less fallible than they were at the beginning of the restart.
A comprehensive win over Tottenham was followed by a fairly predictable draw away at Burnley. But their victory over European rivals Wolves, thanks to a last minute John Egan goal, has reignited their aspirations and a win on Saturday could send them sixth and into a guaranteed Europa League spot.
Chelsea have been largely on good form since the restart with the front three of Christian Pulisic, Willian and Olivier Giroud all in excellent form. Defensively however, it’s been a familiar story with lapses in concentration at set pieces and defending counter attacks; costing them three points against West Ham.
But the Blues have bounced back with wins against Watford and Crystal Palace to keep their European destiny within their grasp.
The last time these sides met was last August where Chelsea blew a two goal lead, as Sheffield United snatched a point through Callum Robinson and a Kurt Zouma own goal in the dying moments.
Here are both side’s recent form in all competitions:
Sheffield United 1-0 Wolves (8/7)
Burnley 1- 1 Sheffield United (5/7)
Sheffield United 3-1 Spurs (2/7)
Sheffield United 1-2 Arsenal (28/6)
Man Utd 3-0 Sheffield United (24/6)
Crystal Palace 2-3 Chelsea (7/7)
Chelsea 3-0 Watford (4/7)
West Ham 3-2 Chelsea (1/7)
Leicester 0-1 Chelsea (28/6)
Chelsea 2-1 Manchester City (25/6)
Sheffield United will be buoyed by their upturn in form and are always strong at home despite the lack of fans. The reformation of the successful back three after five games, is a welcome addition for Wilder. Going forward, they will need to score more to ensure they put games to bed and the absence of the influential Fleck and possibly Lundstram for this match is a big miss.
Chelsea should have enough to take the three points here although one would expect a much tougher test than they have faced in their last couple of outings and they will need to be at their very best defensively to avoid conceding against a physical Sheffield side.
Prediction: Sheffield United 1-2 Chelsea