Sheffield United will hope to continue their superb campaign by taking all three points when they host a struggling Bournemouth side at Bramall Lane on Sunday (14:00 GMT, live on BT Sport).
Sheffield United have outperformed even the most optimistic of expectations in their first top-flight season since 2007. Before things kicked off, they were one of the favourites for relegation. Now they find themselves in the midst of the battle for European places.
Chris Wilder’s side maintained their lofty position in the table with a 1-0 win away to Crystal Palace last weekend. Palace dominated possession and edged things in terms of chance quality and the shot count, but an own goal from the home goalkeeper proved to be the difference between the sides as United came away from their trip south with all three points.
Even after a good start to the season, the assumption was that United would gradually drift downwards into mid-table as it progressed. But we are now two-thirds of the way through the campaign and they are still right up there. Last weekend’s win was enough to see them leapfrog Manchester United and Wolverhampton Wanderers into sixth.
Wilder has been lauded for some of his innovations, including overlapping central defenders, but it is his side’s defensive solidity that has been the cornerstone of their success. Only champions-elect Liverpool have conceded less goals and just those two sides have conceded less than once per match on average.
Sheffield Utd’s attack is functional at best, but when eight of their nine victories have been secured to nil that doesn’t seem like too much of an issue. Whether it is enough to lead them to Europe remains to be seen. Barring a huge collapse, this season is still likely to provide them with their highest top-flight finish since the early nineties, perhaps even the seventies.
Things haven’t gone as well for Sunday’s visitors. Bournemouth have, to varying extents of comfort, been mid to lower mid-table finishers since promotion to the Premier League in 2015-16. That was expected to be the case again this time around, but a run of just one win and 10 defeats in a 12-match stretch from November through mid-January plunged them deep into a relegation battle.
Back-to-back wins over two fellow members of the bottom six have at least broken that run and restored a bit of confidence, but Eddie Howe’s side are still just a couple of points above the bottom three and know that they have a serious task on their hands to remain in the division. The top British-facing bookmakers have them as the fourth most likely side to go down and their underlying numbers put them in similar territory.
The second of those pair of vital victories came at home to Aston Villa last weekend. First-half goals from Philip Billing and Nathan Ake gave Bournemouth an advantage they were able to maintain despite their visitors pulling one back with 20 minutes left to play.
That and their win at home to Brighton the previous week were not only important because they came against direct rivals but also because Bournemouth needed to get some points on the board ahead of what looks a tough conclusion to the campaign. They must face all of the current top nine across their remaining 13 fixtures, six of them away from home, and have no further matches against immediate relegation rivals.
Bournemouth competed well with Sheffield Utd when they met on the south coast earlier this season. Indeed, they seemed set for victory until Billy Sharp grabbed a late equaliser for the Blades.
Our Preview’s Sheffield United vs Bournemouth Betting Tips Verdict
It is Sheffield Utd who look the more probable victors on this occasion. Bournemouth have struggled for goals away from home this season and United’s strong defence can be expected to shut them out. The Blades are hardly prolific themselves but have enough firepower to get the goal that would see them win.
- Bet on Sheffield Utd to win to nil @ best odds of 13/8 with BetVictor.
Compare Sheffield Utd vs Bournemouth Match Betting Odds from Best Bookies