Premier League Preview: Blunt Blades in need of sharpening ahead of crucial six-pointer
2 min read
Premier League Gameweek 24 commences on Saturday afternoon and with only 14 games remaining in what has been another truly breathtaking top-flight campaign, the fight for teams to survive relegation is just as enthralling as the one for those gunning for the title and a place in the top-four.
Sheffield United currently prop up the division and following a 5-0 drubbing at home to Aston Villa on Saturday, their fate is beginning to look sealed with safety now a seismic 10 points away.
Whilst a defeat at home to the high-flying Villans would not have been unexpected, the manner in which they slumped to their 17th league loss last weekend has only heaped more misery on a club who have had very little to smile about this term.
This weekend, however, there is an opportunity for Chris Wilder’s side to arrest their slump against a direct rival in the relegation rat race, although this Saturday’s visit to Kenilworth Road does not exactly present itself at the perfect moment. Luton are starting to really find their feet at England’s top table and recent performances have been hugely impressive, with the Hatters’ recent 4-0 win over Brighton dovetailed by a strong performance and 4-4 draw away at Newcastle last Saturday.
Prior to those two results, they drew 1-1 with Burnley – another side who find themselves in the mix towards the foot of the table – and were narrowly beaten 3-2 by Chelsea in a game they could’ve easily gotten something out of.
Before that, it was the reverse tie of this weekend’s game and Luton came out on top, beating Sheffield United 3-2 at Bramall Lane – a result which has helped shape the landscape down at the bottom – and a 1-0 victory over Newcastle just before Christmas, which proved to be the catalyst for their recent upturn in form. Rob Edward’s side have now lost just one of their last six league games.
For Sheffield United, the story could not be more different. The defeat to Villa rounds off a dismal run of results where their only win since mid-December was against League Two outfit Gillingham in the third round of the FA Cup at the start of January. The Blades are looking extremely blunt and have now lost their last three games in all competitions – conceding a whopping 13 goals in the process.
Saturday’s clash could not be more imperative to their slim-looking chances of avoiding the drop. A defeat all but suggests that their destiny will be decided but a win keeps the dream alive, for another week at least.
Picking up three points at Kenilworth Road would cut the deficit between themselves and Luton to seven points, and with the likes of Fulham, Brentford, Burnley, Nottingham Forest and Everton all left to play from now until the end of the campaign, there would be an opportunity for the South Yorkshiremen to potentially galvanise themselves to the point where they can start climbing closer towards safety in the upcoming months. That task is indeed monumental, though.
Elsewhere this weekend, Manchester United travel south to take on Aston Villa in Sunday’s blockbuster tie at 4.30. Inconsistency has been one of many commonly used buzzwords surrounding United this season and for good reason, but after avoiding a potential banana skin away at Newport County in the FA Cup a fortnight ago – eventually winning 4-2 in South Wales – Erik ten Hag’s men had enough to overcome Wolves last Thursday, winning 3-2 in the Black Country, before comfortably beating West Ham 3-0 at home on Sunday.
Rasmus Højlund has now notched in his last four league games and is starting to prove his quality at Old Trafford following a challenging start to life on English shores. Those goals have helped United move up to sixth in the table, though the Red Devils still find themselves eight points behind this weekend’s opponents who currently occupy fourth, making a victory here crucial for their chances of breaking into the coveted Champions League slots.
Plenty for us to go at, then, as the stakes remain high at both ends of the table.
Premier League Gameweek 24 – Fixtures in full
SATURDAY 10TH FEBRUARY
Manchester City 12:30 Everton
Fulham 15:00 AFC Bournemouth
Liverpool 15:00 Burnley
Luton Town 15:00 Sheffield United
Tottenham Hotspur 15:00 Brighton & Hove Albion
Wolverhampton Wanderers 15:00 Brentford
Nottingham Forest 17:30 Newcastle United
SUNDAY 11TH FEBRUARY
West Ham United 14:00 Arsenal
Aston Villa 16:30 Manchester United
MONDAY 12TH FEBRUARY
Crystal Palace 20:00 Chelsea