Fulham v Sheffield United: Low-scoring clash likely in relegation battle

Fulham host Sheffield United in a crucial match at the bottom of the Premier League and Simon Mail thinks it will be a tense affair...

Fulham grinding out points in survival bid

Fulham were deemed relegation certainties at the start of the season but Scott Parker's side have proved awkward opponents and still have a realistic chance of avoiding the drop. Although Fulham are third bottom, they have moved within six points of overhauling 17th-placed Newcastle. The Cottagers have improved as the season has progressed but wins have still proved scarce.

After a run of 12 games without a league victory, Fulham earned an impressive 2-0 win at Everton on Sunday. Josh Maja marked his full debut, after joining at the end of the January transfer window, with two goals for the visitors. Fulham threatened back-to-back victories after taking the lead at Burnley on Wednesday but a quick equaliser resulted in a 1-1 draw at Turf Moor.

Blades need miracle to stay up

Sheffield United rallied briefly at the start of this year but Chris Wilder's side will need a miraculous end to the season to avoid relegation. After failing to win any of their first 17 Premier League matches, a home victory over Newcastle last month ended their miserable record. The Blades also pulled off a shock 2-1 win at second-placed Manchester United to spark hope of a great escape.

Wilder's side showed their fighting spirit by coming from behind to defeat fellow strugglers West Brom 2-1 at the start of this month. But Sheffield United have since lost at home to Chelsea and were beaten 3-0 at West Ham on Monday night to leave them bottom of the table.

With just 11 points from 24 games, the Blades are a distant 14 points behind Newcastle and a return to the Championship looks inevitable. They are 1.05 to go down with Exchange players.

Favourites hard to trust for vital win

Fulham are 2.3 favourites for this match but their results this season suggest the odds are too short. The Cottagers may be more competitive than expected but a return of just three league victories is disappointing and only West Brom have won fewer games. Only one of those wins have come in the last 14 matches and backing them at cramped odds is unappealing.

Sheffield United have also only won three matches and are priced up at 3.7 outsiders for this crunch clash. The Blades were poor at West Ham in their last match and have failed to keep a clean sheet away all season. Wilder's side have won three of their last seven league games, which suggests they are better value than the hosts, but it is still hard to trust the visitors.

The draw is available at 3.3 and looks the best option in this market. Fulham are unbeaten in all seven league matches this season against other teams currently in the bottom six of the table but six of those were draws. In fact, Fulham have drawn ten of their 24 matches including the stalemate at Sheffield United in October. A draw will do little to aid either team's hopes but it would still be no surprise if the two strugglers were left frustrated on Saturday night.

Low-scoring affair likely

Fulham are the lowest scorers at home this season with just seven goals at Craven Cottage. This paltry return explains why they have only won once at home and could prove costly again this weekend.

Fulham's last four matches have all produced under three goals and another tense, low-scoring affair looks likely in such an important contest.

The odds on under 2.5 goals are pretty short at just 1.61. Using Betfair's Same Game Multi option, there are ways to inflate the odds on a low-scoring match. With Fulham unbeaten against sides at the bottom, backing the hosts in the double chance market and under 2.5 goals inflates the odds to a slightly more palatable 1.84.

Opta Stat

Sheffield United have failed to score in 50% of their 24 Premier League games this season - their highest such share in a single league campaign in their history. The visitors are 5/4 to again draw a blank this weekend.

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