Sheffield United v Watford: Few goals fancied at Bramall Lane

Fifth-placed Sheffield United take on rock-bottom Watford at Bramall Lane on Boxing Day. Mark O'Haire expects a tight tussle in the Steel City.

Sheffield United v Watford
Thursday December 26, 15:00
Live on Amazon Prime

Sheffield United climb to fifth

Oliver McBurnie scored the winner as Sheffield United overcame Brighton 1-0 at The Amex on Saturday, bagging the Blades' third successive top-flight win for the first time since 1993. The Scottish international - making only his seventh start since a £20m switch from Swansea in the summer - latched on to Dean Henderson's long ball to smash home.
United could have been out of sight, twice having goals ruled out by VAR, as well as seeing goalless forward David McGoldrick hit the side-netting after rounding Brighton goalkeeper Mat Ryan. Overall, the Blades' pragmatic system was smart, efficient and effective with United happy to sit in and soak up pressure, while looking dangerous on the break.
Chris Wilder's charges have made an almost seamless transition since winning promotion from the Championship, heading into Christmas in fifth-place in the Premier League. Few changes are expected but midfield mystro John Fleck should return following suspension in place of Luke Freeman, with top goalscorer Lys Mousset also pushing for a recall in attack.

Watford earn overdue victory

Nigel Pearson say he is "very confident" that his Watford team can avoid relegation from the Premier League after they collected just their second win of the season against Manchester United at Vicarage Road. The Hornets moved to within six points of safety and level on points with Norwich in 19th after defeating the Red Devils 2-0 on Sunday.
The new Hornets boss said, "We are in a difficult situation but I believe we can get out of it. I thought we did some good things, deserved to win the game and there is more to come" after seeing David de Gea's error gift his group an opener following Ismaila Sarr's mishit shot. Troy Deeney doubled the advantage from the penalty spot just four minutes later.
Watford kept United comfortably at bay and also had chances to add to their tally in a fully deserved home triumph before Christmas. This victory will also provide renewed hope that the Hornets can follow Burnley, Swansea, Sunderland and West Brom and survive in the Premier League having earned 12 points or fewer after their opening 18 matches.

Blades odds-on at Bramall Lane

Sheffield United and Watford played out a dour 0-0 draw at Vicarage Road back in October, the duos first meeting since 2011. When locking horns at Bramall Lane, the Blades boast a W3-D1-L1 return in league action in games dating back to 2006.
Sheffield United 1.88 have suffered a solitary defeat since runaway leaders Liverpool pinched a narrow success here in September. The Blades have pocketed W5-D5-L1 in their following 11 Premier League games, including taking top honours in each of their most recent three. Exclude the top-two and Chris Wilder's team have W7-D7-L2 since promotion.
Watford 4.80 have shown a level of commitment and endeavour rarely seen under former bosses Javi Gracia and Quique Sanchez Flores since Nigel Pearson took charge. Aided by the return to full fitness of their talismanic forward Troy Deeney, the Hornets have taken four points from three matches - only the daunting trip to Liverpool proving fruitless thus far.

Few Boxing Day goals fancied

Past match-ups between Sheffield United and Watford have rarely been thrilling affairs. Only two of the past seven at Bramall Lane have produced Over 2.5 Goals 2.14 profit and there's little evidence to suggest Boxing Day's battle between the pair will ignite either.
Matches involving the Blades are amongst the lowest scoring in terms of goals, as well as Expected Goals (xG), with 13 of their 18 encounters producing two goals or fewer and only Crystal Palace's (1.94) contests averaging fewer goals per-game (2.11).
With that in mind, plus Watford's renewed vigour and organisation out of possession, I'm inclined to follow the season pattern and oppose goals with Under 2.5 Goals trading at a very fair 1.81.

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