West Bromwich Albion face relegation rivals Sheffield United on Tuesday in a game that can only be described as a ‘must win’ affair.
Both teams have been struggling throughout this season, but a win here tonight would propel them forwards in their bid for survival.
The Blades have been a far-cry from the team they were last season, when they finished in 9th with 54 points.
Chris Wilder was lauded as the next big thing, as were many of his players. So what’s gone wrong this season?
To have only picked up eight points from 21 matches is extraordinarily poor for a Premier League side, and, if they aren’t careful, they could end up with less than the infamous Derby side of the 2007/08 campaign, who were relegated with just 11 points and a goal difference of -69.
If Albion manage to beat Sheffield this evening, I think it’s fair to say that the Blades’ campaign is over and that relegation is virtually inevitable — barring some kind of miracle.
Here’s an overview of West Brom’s opponents: Sheffield United.
Who are Sheffield United’s best players?
Ethan Ampadu, on loan from Chelsea, is certainly up there. The 20-year-old can play as a centre-half or as a defensive midfielder and has arguably been Sheffield’s best performer so far this season — but that isn’t much of an achievement given how poor they have been overall.
David McGoldrick is Sheffield’s top scorer with five goals in 19 matches. The 33-year-old is strong and burly, and works well as the Target Man in a frontline, but he’s unlikely to trouble Albion too much if the backline comply with Big Sam’s instructions.
Oliver McBurnie is also a threat for the Blades going forward — though you wouldn’t know it going off his stats: he only has one goal and one assist this season. But it is his movement off the ball and how dangerous he can be from set-pieces that makes him one of their best players.
Another player is Oliver Burke, who Albion know very well from the time he spent with the Baggies, where he ultimately failed to impress. To be blunt, he hasn’t done much to impress his new club either, with just a single goal and assist to his name in 14 matches. However, his raw pace can be lethal on the counter-attack and if the defence are caught unawares, he could punish them.
What is Sheffield United’s strongest XI?
Chris Wilder tends to opt for a defensive shape nowadays, even against the ‘easier’ sides that hover round the bottom of the table. This is because he knows if he chooses a formation that opens his team up, they will get promptly punished at this level.
Sheffield’s strongest lineup is: Aaron Ramsdale; George Baldock, Chris Basham, John Egan, Ethan Ampadu, Jayden Bogle; John Lundstram, Oliver Norwood, John Fleck; Oliver Burke, David McGoldrick.
Where are Sheffield United in the league?
Sheffield United have been rooted to the bottom of the Premier League for the majority of the season and, as highlighted earlier, if they fail to beat the Baggies tonight, could be there for a lot longer.
West Brom have won three of the past four meetings.
Sheffield United have only registered one victory in their last six matches with West Brom (D2, L3).
The Blades are hosting West Brom in the top flight for the first time since January 1973, when they won 3-0.