Venue – Bramall Lane, Sheffield
Referee – Jonathan Moss
Date & Time – Sunday, February 28th @ 19:15
Current Odds – Sheffield United 13/2, Draw 4/1, Liverpool 4/11
The battle for a top-four finish starts here. Win at Bramall Lane and welcome Chelsea to Anfield with some confidence the following Thursday and all may not be so gloomy in the world of football if we can do that. Fail to take all three points against Sheffield United and our top-four hopes will surely be slipping from our grasp. Every game is a big game now. That’s the way we like it, isn’t it?
Sheffield United Form
Sheffield United are rooted to the bottom of the Premier League, having earned just 11 points from 25 games this season. The Blades are most certainly looking at a return to Championship football in 2021/22. They have scored one goal in their last three games and lost all of those matches.
Chris Wilder’s men have made it to the quarter-finals of the FA Cup where they will play Chelsea. But their top-flight status will be rescinded come May.
Last Saturday’s 2-0 loss to Everton was Liverpool’s fourth consecutive league defeat. The Reds are now sixth in the table, five points behind West Ham and the top four. Liverpool have scored just two goals and conceded 10 in that four-game losing streak.
They did manage an impressive Champions League win against RB Leipzig in the midst of this poor run so they can still pull the odd result out of the bag. Liverpool need to show a certain level of consistency between now and the end of the season if they are to have any hope of qualifying for next season’s Champions League, however.
Sheffield United Team News
Sheffield United have several injury problems at the moment. They are without Jack O’Connell, Sander Berge, Jack Robinson, and John Egan. They could also be missing Chris Basham and Lys Mousset.
John Fleck returned from illness for their 1-0 defeat at Fulham last weekend while former Everton centre-back Phil Jagielka is likely to keep his place in the side due to injuries to other defenders.
Chris Wilder has stuck with the 3-5-2/5-3-2 formation despite The Blades’ struggles this season. He is unlikely to change his side’s shape going into Sunday’s game.
Liverpool Team News
Liverpool’s current injury list: Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez, Joël Matip, Jordan Henderson, and James Milner.
Fabinho may return to full training this week but it’s unclear if he will make Sunday’s match.
Naby Keïta returned to the Liverpool squad last weekend so he is available again. Diogo Jota returned to full training this week but, having been out since December, the Portuguese forward will need a couple of weeks training before he is anywhere near fit enough for a return to action.
With the added headache of Jordan Henderson’s groin injury, sustained against Everton, and Fabinho still not back to full fitness, Jürgen Klopp must now decide between Ben Davies, Ozan Kabak, and Nat Phillips for his central defensive pairing. My bet is he will go with Phillips and Kabak for now.
The midfield trio is likely to be Gini Wijnaldum, Thiago Alcântara, and Curtis Jones.
Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino, and Sadio Mané will probably start again in the front line.
Sheffield United XI (3-5-2) – Ramsdale; Ampadu, Jagielka, Bryan; Baldock, Lundstram, Norwood, Fleck, Stevens; McGoldrick, Sharp
Liverpool XI (4-3-3) – Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Phillips, Kabak, Robertson; Wijnaldum, Thiago, Jones; Salah, Firmino, Mané
WHEN THEY LAST MET
Sheffield United have not beaten Liverpool at Bramall Lane since 1992. It was the early days of the newly-founded English Premier League and The Blades claimed victory thanks to an early goal from Adrian Littlejohn.
Liverpool have won the last four meetings between the sides.
Last season, The Reds won 1-0 at Bramall Lane after on-loan goalkeeper Dean Henderson fumbled a speculative Gini Wijnaldum shot into the net.
Liverpool won 2-1 at Anfield when the sides met earlier this season despite going behind to an early Sander Berge penalty for the visitors. Bobby Firmino equalised just before half time and Diogo Jota scored the winner for Liverpool in the second half.
SHEFFIELD UNITED 0 – 2 LIVERPOOL
Bottom-of-the-table Sheffield United are one of the few teams to have a form record just as bad as Liverpool’s at the moment. If Jürgen Klopp’s Reds can’t muster enough to take all three points from this game then it would be very hard to see them maintain a serious challenge for a top-four finish and Champions League qualification this season.
They should win, though. The Reds know that time is running out to save anything from this shit-show of a campaign. Now is the time to kick back into gear and regain some consistency or we could be looking at a very tough time between now and May.