Wolves take on Sheffield United at Bramall Lane on Wednesday as both teams look to sustain their hopes of securing European football next season.
Wolverhampton Wanderers faced a significant blow in their pursuit of a top-four finish this season when they lost 2-0 to Arsenal. They initially conceded a late first-half goal through Bukayo Saka, which broke their astonishing record securing four consecutive clean sheets in the Premier League.
Wolves offered very little threat to Arsenal going forward, which is something they have struggled with for the most part of the campaign. In fact, they are the lowest-scoring team in Premier League’s top 8 at the moment with 45 goals in 33 matches.
They do have a great defence, however, having conceded only 36 goals, although that record could be challenged by Sheffield United, who have conceded even fewer goals. The Blades have let in only 33 so far – a tally only bettered by Leicester City and champions Liverpool.
That being said, eight of those goals were conceded in Sheffield United’s last four matches, during which the club has registered only one victory. As a result, they now even trail Tottenham Hotspur in the league table, and a win against Wolves could be imperative as Chris Wilder’s looks to sustain his side’s hopes of securing Europa League football next season.
And here, at The Hard Tackle, we will run the rule over the two sides ahead of this extremely crucial Premier League fixture at Bramall Lane this midweek.
Tactics & Team News
Wilder is short of reliable first-team options in midfield heading into this fixture with John Fleck, John Lundstram and Luke Freeman all being ruled out due to injury.
While Lundstram’s absence should pave the way for Sander Berge to start, the Sheffield boss will have to choose between Ben Osborn and Jack Rodwell in the other midfield slot, alongside Oliver Norwood and Berge. We expect Osborn to continue, due to Rodwell’s lack of game-time.
George Baldock and Enda Stevens are two guaranteed starters in the wing-back role. Their performances could be critical against an equally important set of Wolves wing-backs.
There might be changes in defence too, with Jack O’Connell likely to receive his first start since March, having returned to full fitness in the last game. He is set to replace Jack Robinson and form Sheffield’s three-man backline alongside Chris Basham and John Egan.
And finally, in the attack, Wilder could provide Oliver McBurnie with a much-needed breather as the striker has started five of the club’s six matches since the restart. His absence should pave the way for Billy Sharp to return to to the side and feature alongside the in-form David McGoldrick.
Probable Lineup (3-5-2): Henderson; Basham, Egan, O’Connell; Baldock, Osborn, Norwood, Berge, Stevens; McGoldrick, Sharp
Given Sheffield United’s numerical advantage in midfield, Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo may have very little choice but to continue with a 3-5-2 he used against Arsenal. It should create equity in midfield, with the away side hoping that the quality of individuals like Leander Dendoncker, Ruben Neves and Joao Moutinho will do the trick.
No changes are expected in the wing-back slots either with Matt Doherty playing as the right wing-back while Jonny Castro is set to operate on the opposite flank. Even in defence, Nuno is set to persist with the tried and tested defensive line consisting of Willy Boly, Romain Saiss and Conor Coady.
In attack, however, Pedro Neto is a doubt heading into the fixture. He picked up a knock against Arsenal and will face a late fitness test ahead of the game. But on the bright side, January signing Daniel Podence is back from self-isolation and is fit to start.
None of these players will be used in the offensive unit, though Nuno could face a selection dilemma when it comes to choosing the strike partner for Raul Jimenez.
It was Adama Traore who started against Arsenal, and we expect the Spaniard to once again start over Diogo Jota as his physical prowess could be useful when dealing with Sheffield United’s hard-working players.
Probable Lineup (3-5-2): Patricio; Boly, Coady, Saiss; Doherty, Dendoncker, Neves, Moutinho, Jonny; Traore, Jimenez
- Wolves have only lost one of the last eight league meetings, winning four and drawing three.
- Chris Wilder’s side lost three of their first four home league matches this season but have only lost two of 12 since.
- Sheffield United’s tally of 48 points is the highest by a newly-promoted team after 33 matches of a Premier League season since Wigan also recorded 48 in 2005-06.
- Wolves could win four consecutive top-flight away fixtures for the first time since a run of five victories in 1980.
- If Premier League matches finished at half-time this season, Wolves would be bottom with a record of W5, D12, L16.
Player to Watch
Although Sheffield United do have one of the best defences in the league, they have been complacent since the restart, notably conceding a combined total of six goals in defeats against Manchester United and Newcastle United. That means Wolves will be hopeful of breaching the defensive lines of Wilder’s men. And the onus will be on Adama to provide that x-factor going forward.
The ex-Barcelona starlet has emerged as one of the rising stars in the Premier League this season, having been involved in 13 goals. His tally of nine assists is higher than any other Wolves player in the Premier League. Adama’s creativity, combined with his pace and power, therefore, could cause some serious problems for Sheffield United this midweek.
Sheffield United 0-0 Wolves
Wolves are definitely the favourites heading into this clash, having enjoyed a tremendous run of form prior to their defeat against Arsenal. But, Sheffield United have also improved over the past week or so. And the return of O’Connell should further solidify their backline.
Hence, we could potentially witness a cagey game here, with both sides trying hard to find the opener while maintaining a steady and cautious approach. We predict a goalless draw here.