Sheffield United host Thomas Tuchel’s Blues on Sunday evening as both teams will be looking to build on impressive midweek victories.
Chris Wilder’s men are enjoying their best form of the season, picking up three wins from their last five outings including an impressive victory over fellow strugglers West Brom on Tuesday night. The win moved the Blades to within a point of the Baggies and three behind Fulham. Although Premier League survival still looks hopeful rather than realistic, Wilder will be hoping his side can put in another impressive performance against the London outfit on Sunday.
For Tuchel, it has been a good start his Chelsea reign after taking over from Frank Lampard less than two weeks ago. Seven points, three goals, three clean sheets and one main takeaway – structure. The German has immediately adopted his favoured three-at-the-back formation which seems to suit a lot of Chelsea’s squad, particularly those who flourished under Antonio Conte who opted for the same shape.
Players like Marcos Alonso and Cesar Azpilicueta in particular are players who seem tailor-made for a back three. Alonso is too weak defensively to play left back whilst Azpilicueta does not offer enough invention going forward on the opposite flank. Now, the left wing-back and right-sided centre half look back to their best and Tuchel will be hoping more players start rediscovering their best form soon, especially high-profile signings Kai Havertz and Timo Werner.
Wilder’s men will largely match Chelsea up in terms of shape, hoping their extra man in midfield will allow them to work the channels and find McGoldrick in the pockets in which he thrives. McGoldrick, arguably United’s best player this term, will be hoping to score against the Blues for the third consecutive game, although Chelsea’s defence will certainly be more resolute this time round.
United’s Chelsea loanee, Ethan Ampadu is ineligible against his parent club whilst George Baldock is a doubt after picking up a hamstring injury on Tuesday.
Jayden Bogle could shift over to right wing-back to cover whilst the returning Ben Osborn or Enda Stevens could fill in down the left.
For Chelsea, they look to be without Thiago Silva who was substituted early into their victory over London rivals Tottenham on Thursday after sustaining a thigh strain.
Kai Havertz and Kurt Zouma have picked up knocks in training and will need to be monitored up till kick-off on Sunday.
Chelsea ran-out 4-1 winners in the reverse fixture in November after McGoldrick gave the Blades the lead early on. The victory saw new signing Hakim Ziyech shine impressively, providing two assists in his best display in a Chelsea shirt so far, although the Moroccan has not been able to command a regular spot in Tuchel’s starting XI.
Last season however, Sheffield United picked up four points against the Blues after a battling comeback at the Bridge and a resounding 3-0 victory at Bramall Lane after Project Restart. The Blades will be hoping to channel similar performance levels this time out and inflict Thomas Tuchel’s first defeat as Chelsea boss.
This fixture has produced 32 goals in the last nine league games.
Billy Sharp will be hoping to score his fourth winning-goal of 2021, after two Premier League winners and one in the FA Cup.
Chelsea’s seven points under Tuchel so far are as many as they mustered in their last eight games under Frank Lampard.
One to Watch
Mason Mount. Chelsea’s young midfielder has often been harshly criticised but in truth he has been their most consistent performer going forward. Mount is rarely rested and has been deployed as an 8, a 10 or off either wing so far this season, always offering a goal threat and trying to create chances for his team mates.
Tuchel has looked to use the Englishman in his front three, preferring Kovocic and Jorginho as his double-pivot, and he is currently thriving. Expect Mount to look for space in between the lines and receive the ball on the half-turn, looking to drive at United’s defence.
The match kicks off at 7.15pm on Sunday evening and is available on Sky Sports Main Event and Sky Sports Premier League.