Sheffield United v Everton: Blades can end winless run

There are good reasons why Sheffield United can end their winless Premier League run on Boxing Day when they face Everton. Andy Schooler highlights them...

Sheffield United v Everton
Saturday 26 December, 20:00
Live on BT Sport 2

Hope for Blades

The presents will have been unwrapped by kick-off in this one with Sheffield United still without a Premier League win and seemingly destined for a return to the Championship.

But the Blades are far from without hope of breaking their duck in this one.

Everton, who went into Christmas inside the top four, have undoubtedly benefitted from a lack of European competition so far this season but they are currently in the middle of their toughest run, schedule-wise, of the campaign.

They come into this game having just played four times in the past fortnight and this match is their first of three in a seven-day period over the festive period.

It's been a case of so far, so good in that hectic run, with the Toffees notching impressive wins over Chelsea, Leicester and Arsenal, although they were brought back down to earth with a bump on Wednesday when Manchester United knocked them out of the Carabao Cup.

Everton created little that night with United's press causing them problems. Their opponents' better passing saw them produce more in the areas which mattered and Everton were deservedly beaten.

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Having managed just 36% possession, Everton had to do plenty of work without the ball. After matches of a similar pattern in the games leading up to that cup tie, another match so soon afterwards is a concern.

Richarlison worry

A particular worry for the Blues will be the head injury suffered by Richarlison on Wednesday. He looked to have been knocked out during a second-half challenge, with the club doctor not allowing the Brazilian to continue.

Given the current climate over head injuries, Richarlison may well be forced to sit this one out, denying Everton another key player.

They are already without Lucas Digne, Allan (pictured) and James Rodriguez, although there's a chance the latter could return here.

But Richarlison has been arguably their biggest miss so far this term - his three-game ban coinciding with Everton's worst run. They lost all three - away to Southampton and Newcatsle and home to Manchester United - and scored just two goals in those games.

With Dominic Calvert-Lewin having gone a little cold in recent weeks - he's now four games without a goal - the Toffees may well miss the Brazilian's creativity and eye for goal here.

United no whipping boys

Their hosts should probably have notched their first win last weekend when, despite playing with 10 men for much of the game at Brighton, they had a glorious chance to go 2-0 up in the second half but the otherwise impressive Oliver Burke blazed high and wide.

In the end they conceded a late equaliser and could have lost when the Seagulls hit the post at the death.

The league's joint-lowest scorers have now found the net in three of their last four, scoring twice against Manchester United, another game they also led in.

Get their noses in front in this one and Everton may find it harder to get back into the contest, for the reasons outlined above.

Chris Wilder's side may have already lost 12 times but nine of those have been single-goal losses, showing they've been far from whipping boys. For the record, another such loss in this one is a 3.6 chance via the handicap market.

Given their lack of points, lots of comparisons have been made with the 2007/08 Derby side, who managed just 11 across the campaign. Interestingly, eight of the Rams' first 12 losses that season were by two or more goals.

The Blades will be without the suspended John Lundstram, although Burke's display as sub last week suggested he won't be missed.

Value in home win

Sander Berge and Jack O'Connell remain long-term absentees but Oli McBurnie could make a return.

In short, Sheffield United look worth a small play to win the match at 4.5 given the circumstances.

With four away wins so far, Everton do have the ability to land odds of 1.94 but backing them to do so looks risky business.

Don't expect festive goal feast

In terms of goals, the to win the matchover/under market looks about right in making under 2.5 a slight favourite at 1.91.

I've already suggested how Everton's attack might not be at its sharpest, while five of seven matches at Bramall Lane this season have landed this bet (admittedly the two which didn't are the most recent).

Both meetings between the sides last season also saw less than three goals - Everton winning here 1-0 in July with the Blades 2-0 victors at Goodison earlier in the campaign.

Opta fact

Everton have won their last three Premier League games, last winning four in a row in their first four matches of this campaign. The Toffees haven't had two runs of 4+ wins in the same league season since their title-winning 1986-87 campaign.

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