Liverpool plan to get back to winning ways against Sheffield United on Sunday, following a run of four back to back defeats in the Premier League.
Liverpool’s hopes of making a surge during the second half of the league table suffered a major blow as they lost to Everton, in the prestigious Merseyside derby. The result leaves them stranded in sixth place, with no real hopes of catching up with league leaders Manchester City, who currently hold a lead of almost 20 points heading into this weekend’s round of fixtures.
While the title is already gone, the more immediate worry for Jurgen Klopp is to finish inside the top four. And in Sheffield United, Liverpool could be gifted an ideal opportunity to get back on track as they seek to put pressure on the likes of Everton, Chelsea, West Ham and Leicester City in the league table.
For Sheffield United, though, things still remain bleak as the relegation looms large following a disastrous campaign that has seen them secure only three wins in 25 matches. The Blades, as a result, are languishing at the rock bottom of the league table, a whopping 14 points away from safety.
Yet, the Yorkshire outfit are still maintaining a better form than Liverpool over the past four matches, which is enough to indicate the task at hand for the Premier League champions during the remainder of the season. And here, at the Hard Tackle, we will run the rule over these two sides ahead of this important match-up at Bramall Lane this weekend.
Tactics & Team News
Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder deserves credit for not diverting from his strategies despite poor performances this season. Unfortunately, he continues to struggle with injury-related absentees, with the recent knock to Chris Basham once again set to further deplete the defensive unit.
The Bladesmen. 💪 pic.twitter.com/HxAMmMflHy
— Sheffield United (@SheffieldUnited) February 26, 2021
As such, Ethan Ampadu should continue his defensive combination with Kean Bryan and the experienced Phil Jagielka in the three-man backline. They should demand additional support from the wingbacks in George Baldock and Enda Stevens as the Blades look to employ a deep defensive line that has frustrated the Liverpool attack in recent weeks.
There should be no particular changes in midfield either, with John Lundstram, Oliver Norwood and John Fleck hoping to disrupt the flow of the opposition with their pressing game.
Things do get interesting in the attacking department, where Wilder does have the option to unleash former Liverpool player Rhian Brewster. The Blades paid a fortune to sign the youngster last summer but he is yet to provide the goods going forward, so it remains unlikely that we might see him start ahead of Oliver Burke and David McGoldrick this weekend.
Probable Lineup (3-5-2): Ramsdale; Ampadu, Jagielka, Bryan; Baldock, Lundstram, Norwood, Fleck, Stevens; McGoldrick, Burke
Jordan Henderson became the latest player to be ruled out for the long term after picking up a knock earlier this month. He remains on the sidelines alongside Joe Gomez, Virgil van Dijk and Joel Matip.
On the bright side, though, Fabinho could potentially return to the matchday squad and might be an option on the bench as Klopp looks to field Nat Phillips and new signing Ozan Kabak at the heart of the four-man backline. It means Ben Davies may still have to wait for his opportunity, after joining from Preston in January.
All the latest team news ahead of #SHULIV 👇
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) February 27, 2021
Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson Becker, meanwhile, suffered a massive loss in midweek, following the tragic drowning of his father. The Brazilian failed to attend the funeral amid Covid-19 restrictions, leaving him stranded in England. Although Klopp is yet to make a decision regarding his involvement on Sunday, we may still see him in between the sticks against Sheffield United.
Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson remain guaranteed starters elsewhere in the pecking. And while “TAA” is almost destined to offer support with his marauding runs forward, Robertson could also do the same as Klopp looks to throw caution to the wind in a desperate attempt to find that extra penetration.
There might be a change of personnel, too, in midfield, with Xherdan Shaqiri hoping to replace Curtis Jones. Although Naby Keita is another option, the Swiss international’s offensive mindset and tendency to get into the box should give Liverpool numerical superiority in the final third, albeit at the expense of a lack of stability in the middle of the park.
Liverpool are days away from the return of Jota, who has been training with the team recently. On Sunday, though, the onus will still be on the attacking trifecta of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane to provide the productivity that has been missing in recent weeks.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Kabak, Phillips, Robertson; Thiago, Wijnaldum; Salah, Shaqiri, Mane; Firmino
1. Liverpool Asian Handicap -1.0 @ 1.575
1. Mohamed Salah to score 2 or more @ 3.40
- Liverpool are in danger of losing five successive top-flight league matches for the first time since September 1953.
- Jurgen Klopp’s side are without a clean sheet in seven away matches and have conceded 13 goals in the process.
- All seven of David McGoldrick’s career Premier League goals have been scored against the established top-six clubs.
- Chris Wilder’s side have been beaten in nine of 10 fixtures against the current top six this term, winning the other.
- Liverpool are two short of 7,000 top-flight goals, with only city rivals Everton achieving that feat.
Player to Watch
If Liverpool are to return to winning ways, they need all of their top guns to fire this weekend. One player who has been consistently struggling to perform is Roberto Firmino, having failed to find the back of the net since the win over Tottenham. It also happened to be his only league goal in 2021 so far.
It is a rather disappointing figure for someone who is tasked with the responsibility of spearheading one of the biggest teams in Europe. However, we might see a little surge in Firmino’s performance this weekend, with the return of Jota looming. In addition, Shaqiri has also enjoyed a lot of game-time, of late.
Hence, Firmino simply needs to provide the goods in the attacking unit this weekend if he is to retain his place in the team going forward – making him one of the players worth keeping an eye on this weekend.
Sheffield United 0-2 Liverpool
Liverpool do tend to perform when you least expect them to, and this could be one of those situations, especially in the aftermath of a graphic loss of Alisson’s father and his subsequent missed flight back to Brazil, we might see a spring in the steps for the away team as they look to finally get back to winning ways.