Europa League-chasers Sheffield United welcome red-hot Chelsea to Bramall Lane in front of the Sky Sports cameras Saturday, in a fixture that could prove instrumental in both sides’ continental ambitions.
Chris Wilder’s side were all but ruled out of the European hunt after a really poor restart, but they’ve since picked up seven points in three games including huge wins over challengers Tottenham and Wolves.
The results mean that The Blades are in 7th position on 51 points, a Europa League spot, with the likes of Arsenal, Spurs and even Burnley breathing down their necks just one and two points away respectively.
Frank Lampard, on the other hand, will settle for nothing short of Champions League qualification after five wins in six has seen his team leapfrog Leicester into 3rd place. The London side harbour a two-point lead over Manchester United in 5th.
Looking beyond this match, Sheffield United have a difficult run in with a home game against Everton sandwiched by difficult trips to Leicester and Southampton; points are at a premium.
Chelsea’s run-in also poses them challenges, with games against Norwich, Liverpool and then Wolves to settle the top-four race for another season.
It finished 2-2 the last time these sides met back in August; England prospect Tammy Abraham put Chelsea two goals up before a dramatic comeback culminated in a last gasp own-goal equaliser for Sheffield United.
Top goalscorers (Premier League)
Sheffield United: Lys Mousset (6) – Signed from Bournemouth last summer, a few eyebrows were raised when it was announced the fee was £10m or thereabouts. Although the likes of John Fleck and Oli McBurnie have chipped in with goals too, six goals sounds like an impossible amount for your top-scorer to nab whilst also securing European qualification.
Chelsea: Tammy Abraham (14) - The 22-year-old has been enjoying his first season in Chelsea’s first team following loan spells at Bristol City, Swansea and most recently Aston Villa. 14 is a really good total though, and it’s propelled him to the status of a respected Premier League goalscorer, despite Olivier Giroud being preferred post-lockdown.
Player to watch: Olivier Giroud - It would be easy to pick wingers Willian and Christian Pulisic who have both been free-firing since the seasons restart, particularly with the formers proficiency on penalty kicks – and I don’t doubt either to score again.
However, the big Frenchman up top for Chelsea has chipped into their incredible recent form too, netting three times including the winner away to Aston Villa.
It’s already his most illustrious campaign for The Blues with just five goals (meaning 60% of this season’s total have come since the end of June), although having only made 14 appearances, it’s not actually a dreadful record.
A World Cup winner without even mustering an attempt at goal, everyone knows that he’s capable of coming up with some magic when it’s needed.
He also started on the bench for their disappointing loss to West Ham and although Lampard could rotate his number nine again, he might be wary of this. In such a tight game, any contribution from Giroud could well be match-winning.
Prediction: Sheffield United 1-2 Chelsea
Match Preview written by Alfie House.