Sheffield United will be looking to kickstart their 2020/21 Premier League campaign with a win when they face off against Wolves at Bramall Lane on Monday.
Just a little over a month after the previous season ended, the 2020/21 Premier League campaign is underway and the opening matchday has been an action-packed one. The final two fixtures of Matchday 1 take place on Monday evening, with the first one coming our way from Bramall Lane where Sheffield United face off against Wolves.
Back in the top-flight, Sheffield United enjoyed a high-flying 2019/20 season, although a dip in form towards the end saw them miss out on European football. Heading into the new campaign though, the Blades will want to build on their heroics and go a step further. As far as preparations go, the Blades defeated Derby County 2-0 in a friendly, before drawing 2-2 against Preston North End.
Wolves, on the other hand, continue to perform admirably under the guidance of Nuno Espirito Santo. A seventh-place finish in the Premier League coupled with a quarter-final run in the UEFA Europa League meant it was quite an impressive campaign for the Black County outfit and they will be hoping to improve upon that in the new season.
Wolves haven’t been involved in any pre-season friendlies given that they ended their season on August 11 and the players just got a three-week break before the international fixtures. So, the Midlands’ outfit jump into the new season with preparations being far from ideal.
Last season, Wolves were unable to get the better of Sheffield United in the league, with the Blades winning this exact fixture, while the reverse fixture at Molineux had ended in a 1-1 draw. Ahead of their latest meeting on Monday, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both the teams.
Team News & Tactics
Sheffield United will welcome back Jack Rodwell and Jack O’Connell both of whom have recovered from their respective injuries. Lys Mousset and David McGoldrick will undergo late fitness tests, but are expected to be available, although Sander Berge remains a doubt along with goalkeeper Simon Moore.
The Blades have been quite active in the market, having brought in Aaron Ramsdale, Jayden Bogle, Max Lowe, Ethan Ampadu (loan) and Oliver Burke. However, only one of them is likely to start on Monday, with Ramsdale getting the nod between the sticks against Wolves.
The three-man backline for Sheffield United ought to comprise of the usual suspects in Chris Basham, John Egan and the fit-again O’Connell, while George Baldock and Enda Stevens ought to continue as the wing-backs on the right and left sides respectively.
Oliver Norwood will take up the deepest position in the centre of the park, and will be flanked by the duo of John Lundstram and John Fleck, who will look to push upfield and support the two-pronged strike force of Oliver McBurnie and McGoldrick, who should recover from a knock to start on Monday.
Probable Lineup (3-5-2): Ramsdale; Basham, Egan, O’Connell; Baldock, Lundstram. Norwood, Fleck, Stevens; McBurnie, McGoldrick
Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo will not be able to call upon the services of trusted wing-back Jonny Castro, who is out with an ACL injury. Adama Traore is expected to be available, after his second test for the coronavirus came out negative last week while on national duty, having initially tested positive.
The loss of Matt Doherty will be a blow for Nuno, but they have strengthened the team with the club-record signing of teenage sensation Fabio Silva, experienced defender Marcal, while midfielder Vitinha has also arrived on loan. None of them are likely to start on Monday evening, however.
In goal, there is no looking past seasoned campaigner Rui Patricio, who will be shielded by a three-man backline comprising of Romain Saiss, Willy Boly, and Conor Coady, who recently made his England debut and impressed.
With Doherty gone, Adama Traore is likely to take up the right wing-back slot, although Oscar Buur is an option. On the opposite flank, Ruben Vinagre is likely to get the nod over Marcal. The three-man midfield unit of Leander Dendoncker, Ruben Neves and Joao Moutinho picks itself.
Raul Jimenez enjoyed a prolific campaign last time out and should start in attack, alongside Diogo Jota with the likes of Silva, Pedro Neto and Daniel Podence as options from the bench.
Probable Lineup (3-5-2): Patricio; Saiss, Coady, Boly; Traore, Dendoncker, Neves, Moutinho, Vinagre; Jimenez, Jota
- Sheffield United have never lost an opening day fixture of a Premier League season, having won two and drawn two till date.
- Wolves are unbeaten in their opening league match across all divisions in the past seven seasons since defeat against Leeds in 2012.
- Chris Wilder has won 99 of his 195 matches as Sheffield United manager and needs one victory to become the first Blades boss to reach 100 wins in fewer than 200 games.
- Wolves recovered an unrivalled 21 points from losing positions last season and dropped the fewest points when ahead.
- Sheffield United could lose four successive league matches for the first time since a run of six defeats in September 2013 in League One.
Player to Watch
The explosive winger was one of Wolves’ best players last season, causing all sorts of problems to opposition with his pace, skill and physicality. Traore’s best came when he was deployed on the right-side of the attacking trident.
However, on Monday, he will be asked to take up a different role, slotting in as the wing-back following Doherty’s departure. The position isn’t entirely unfamiliar to the 24-year-old, given that he featured 14 times in the position last term, contributing with 2 goals and 3 assists.
But, the attacking nature of Sheffield United’s wing-backs and the fact that their centre-backs will also make overlapping runs will mean that the Spaniard will have his task cut out defensively. Thus, it will be interesting to see how he copes and whether he will be able to achieve the right balance between attack and defence.
Sheffield United 1-1 Wolves
Both teams were solid defensively last time out and fans came expect the same from them heading into the new season. The absence of Matt Doherty and Jonny Castro will be a problem for Nuno and Wolves, but they are expected to cope fairly well against a goal-shy Sheffield United side. The Hard Tackle is predicting this one to end in a 1-1 draw.