Sheffield United v Chelsea
Sunday February 7, 19:15
Live on Sky Sports
Battling Blades still in the mire
After a terrific first season back in the Premier League, Sheffield United ended 2020 having taken second season syndrome to whole new low. Following three defeats in-a-row just after Christmas, the Blades had just two points after 17 matches and they were cut adrift at the bottom of the Premier League by six points.
Matched at a low of just 1.041/25 to be relegated, a return to the Championship looked like a done deal but they’ve rallied brilliantly for the manager, Chris Wilder, over the last month. The Blades have won five of their last seven games in all competitions, which is as many as they’d won in their previous 32.
A hard-fought 3-2 win at Bristol Rovers in the F.A Cup kicked the run off and after Premier League wins against Newcastle, Manchester United and West Brom, they’re now as big as 1.182/11 for the drop. And following a 2-1 victory at home to Plymouth in round four, they’ll host Bristol City on Wednesday night with a chance to reach the quarter-finals of the F.A Cup. It’s been a good month.
In addition to their five wins, United impressed away at Manchester City last weekend when they lost just 1-0, and after Tuesday’s superb victory against fellow strugglers, West Brom, when they came back to win 2-1 after trailing at the break, Blades fans have every right to start believing but they still have an awful lot to do.
The victory against the Baggies has seen the gap between the bottom two close to just a point and Fulham, in 18th, are only three points ahead of the Blades. Given how well they played in the first two thirds of last season, and how much better they’ve played over the last month, Sheffield United overtaking West Brom and Fulham before season’s end wouldn’t be a surprise at all but with just 11 points in the bank, they’re currently 11 points behind Burnley and Newcastle and they’re going to need a lot of help.
Life after Lampard starts well
With the hinderance of an 18-month transfer ban still running, Champions League qualification via a fourth-placed finish was a reasonable result for Frank Lampard in his first season in charge of Chelsea but after a fortune was spent in the summer, it was never going to take long for chairman Roman Abramovich’s patience to start to wane if they didn’t improve this term.
As much as £222m was spent in the summer as eight players, including Ben Chilwell, the experienced Thiago Silva and the German pair, Timo Werner and Kai Havertz, were brought in and everything in the garden was rosy after a decent start.
The Blues lost just one of their first 11 Premier League matches, at home to the champions Liverpool, and they sat third and just two points off the lead, but Lampard’s lads started to lose their way after that and after losing five of their next eight, the writing was on the wall for the club legend.
Having fallen all the way down to ninth place after a 2-0 defeat at Leicester, Chelsea were matched at as high as 4.3100/30 for a Top 4 Finish and Abramovich’s patience ran out. Lampard was sacked following their 3-1 win against Luton in the F.A Cup and almost immediately, the former Paris St-Germain boss Thomas Tuchel replaced him at the helm.
Tuchel’s rein began with a drab 0-0 draw but the Blues followed that up with a comfortable 2-0 victory over Burnley last weekend and a 1-0 win away at Spurs on Thursday night so for the first time this season, they’ve gone three Premier League games in-a-row without conceding. Now up into sixth, their push for the top-four and for Champions League qualification is well and truly on and so far, Abramovich’s decisive action has been vindicated.
Chelsea to edge a low scoring affair
Given the upturn in fortunes at Bramall Lane and the change of management at Chelsea, I’m not sure how much credence we can give the season’s stats so far but everything points to a low scoring affair.
Only 36% of Sheffield United’s home games and 45% of Chelsea’s away matches have produced three or more goals scored so far this season so Under in the Over/Under 2.5 Goals market looks the play at around even money.
No is odds-on in the Both Teams to Score market and that makes sense given both sides have scored in only 45% of Sheffield United home games and in only 36% of Chelsea’s away games but rather than play either of those markets, I like a low scoring way win…
The Blades are fighting hard now but whether they can break down the new and improved Chelsea defence is highly debatable.
Tuchel’s tightened things up nicely and given how slow the Blades start anyway (they’ve scored just two goals at home in the first half in 11 games at Bramall Lane this season) the visitors seizing the initiative and patiently edging a low scoring affair looks the most likely outcome.
I like 1-0 and 2-0 to the visitors in the Correct Score market.