Sheffield United v Brighton: Goals likely to be in short supply
Andrew Atherley expects another low-scoring match at the bottom end on Saturday night...
Blades already down
Last week's 1-0 defeat at Wolves confirmed Sheffield United's relegation to the Championship after a season-long struggle that left them doomed from an early stage.
With six games to go, the best they can do under interim boss Paul Heckingbottom is to salvage some pride and avoid unwanted records such as most defeats in a Premier League season (they would have the outright record if they lost four of the last six).
Attack remains a big issue for United and, with Oli McBurnie out for the season, Rhian Brewster was the partner for David McGoldrick against Wolves. Lys Mousset and Oli Burke are alternatives.
Defender Chris Basham and midfielder Sander Berge are getting close to match fitness after injury layoffs.
Seagulls nearly safe
Brighton inched a little closer to safety with Tuesday's goalless draw at Chelsea, following another 0-0 against Everton the previous week.
Graham Potter's side are 16th on 34 points with six matches to play, seven points clear of Fulham in 18th and with a game in hand.
Ben White, virtually an ever-present at the heart of the Brighton defence, is suspended after being sent off against Chelsea. Joel Veltman or Dan Burn could drop into Brighton's back three in his place.
Adam Lallana and Neal Maupay could come back into the starting line-up after being used substitutes on Tuesday.
Scoring issues for both teams
United have continued to play like a broken team under Heckingbottom, losing all five matches since he replaced Chris Wilder and scoring only one goal in that run.
Their last five games for Wilder had featured four defeats to nil and just a solitary goal in a rare 1-0 win over Aston Villa at Bramall Lane on March 3, so nothing has really changed.
Their best run of the season lasted for about a month from early January (six wins out of nine in all competitions) but they have sunk back into terrible form. Their current six-match losing streak is only two short of their worst of the season.
Lack of goals has been a major problem, with expensive summer recruit Brewster having failed to fire. He has not found the net once since his £23.5m move, leaving McGoldrick as top scorer with six goals.
Brighton also have scoring issues, averaging around a goal per game, but their overall tally of 33 is almost double United's 17.
Their football has been attractive enough and arguably they have been unlucky at times but last month's back-to-back wins by decent scores (2-1 away to Southampton and 3-0 home to Newcastle) look like a blip.
Other than those wins, the Seagulls have scored more than one goal in a Premier League match only once in 2021 (in a home 3-3 against Wolves on January 2).
The scoring records of both teams make this a match of tighter margins than Brighton's away win odds of 1.76 indicate.
Given Heckingbottom's failure to restore any confidence in United's players, Brighton are the likelier winners but it is questionable whether the Seagulls have shown enough over the season to be trusted at odds-on.
It is worth remembering that it took a Danny Welbeck equaliser in the 87th minute to rescue a point for Brighton in a 1-1 in the reverse fixture in December, even though United came into the match on an eight-game losing run (their worst of the season) and played 50 minutes with 10 men.
Low goals looks likely
Both teams are in the upper rank for low goals. United are fourth on 56% under 2.5 goals and Brighton not far behind on 53%.
Their previous encounter this season produced just a goal each and it is also worth noting that the low goals figures for both teams rise when matches against the better attacks of the top six are excluded.
Against teams below the top six, United have had 70% under 2.5 goals and Brighton have had 59%.
Under 2.5 goals looks a solid bet at 1.66 and arguably the odds should be slightly lower.
Sheffield United have suffered 16 one-goal defeats in the Premier League this season, the most in a top-flight season since Ipswich Town in 1985-86 (also 16). The last team to have more were Crystal Palace in 1980-81 (18). A 1-0 win to Brighton is available at 5.5.
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