Sheffield United host Wolverhampton Wanderers on Wednesday evening for a game that promises to be a fascinating tactical tussle between two sides with plenty still to play for.
Wolves will be looking to bounce back after a disappointing home defeat against Arsenal at the weekend whereas the Blades will hope to push on after picking up four points from Spurs and Burnley. Both teams still have realistic ambitions of European football next season and three points will go a long way to achieving these ambitions.
The matchup pits two teams with similar styles and formations against each other and yet the subtle differences between the sides could determine who comes out on top. Chris Wilder and Nuno Espirito Santo deploy the most polished three-at-the-back formations in the country, yielding the best results. Wilder consistently uses a midfield three and two strikers whilst Nuno varies between a front three and a front two.
For United, Ollie Norwood is key, he acts as the fulcrum, distributing passes out wide and dictating tempo – when he’s off his game, his team suffer, as has been the case often since the restart. For Wolves, Ruben Neves does a very similar job, except he has Conor Coady and João Moutinho who also act as metronomes, keeping things ticking over.
The Blades will look to build play down the wings, using combination play and their famed “overlapping centre halves” to create overloads and get in behind the Wolves backline. For Wolves, in the final third, their play goes through frontman Raul Jiménez whilst they will no doubt deploy the league’s most dangerous trump card, Adama Traore to exploit any gaps in the Sheffield defence.
Chris Wilder must decide whether to use key defender Jack O’Connell from the start or again from the bench after he made a positive impact in the second half for his side last time out against Burnley.
Wilder confirmed that John Lundstram, John Fleck and Luke Freeman are all out for ‘a couple of weeks’ although the manager will be pleased with Sander Berge and Ben Osborn’s form after coming in for their injured teammates.
For Wolves, Daniel Podence is once again an option after a period of self-isolation and Nuno suggested the Portuguese ‘could start the game’.
Podence’s compatriot, Pedro Neto however is a doubt and it will be touch and go whether he is available for Wednesday.
Last time out, these sides could not be separated as the game finished 1-1. Mousset got the Blades off to a lightning-quick start, scoring inside two minutes. George Baldock provided the assist for the Frenchman and United will be hoping to get more joy from their wing-backs this time out.
Despite a characteristically slow start from Wolves, they once again demonstrated their powers of recovery in the reverse fixture, with Matt Doherty scoring the equaliser in the second half. Raúl Jiménez crafted the equaliser and his team will be looking to him for attacking inspiration again on Wednesday.
Wolves have won two of their last three league visits to Bramall Lane and have only lost one of the last eight league meetings.
Only Liverpool and Manchester City have a better home defensive record this season than the Blades, who have conceded just 14 goals at the Lane.
If only first halves counted, Wolves would be bottom of the Premier League this season, highlighting their ability to finish games strong.
One to Watch
Ben Osborn was drafted into the side against Spurs last week after John Fleck’s injury and put in an impressive, battling display. The former Nottingham Forest man offers balance down the left side and combines well with Stevens and Robinson.
Osborn will hope to build on that performance on Wednesday night against a technically gifted Wolves midfield, where stopping the likes of Neves and Moutinho could be the key to gaining the upper hand.
The match kicks off at 6pm on Sky Sports Main Event and Sky Sports Premier League on Wednesday, with the option of crowd noise or natural sound available.