Positioned at opposite ends of the Premier League table, Sheffield United host Everton on Boxing Day (8pm Saturday; TV: Live on BT Sport).
Everton have made a strong start to the season and are currently up in fourth, just a point behind Leicester in second. Sheffield United have endured a disastrous time of it and prop up the table with just two points from a winless first 14 matches of the campaign.
The second of those points was picked up in a 1-1 draw away to Brighton on Sunday. Reduced to 10 men by John Lundstram’s late first-half dismissal, Chris Wilder’s side fought hard to maintain the lead Jayden Bogle gave them just past the hour, but eventually succumbed to a late equaliser after a barrage of efforts from their host finally paid dividends.
Wilder described the result as a small step for his side to try and build on, but the reality is that they will need to start doing so sooner rather than later if relegation is not to become unavoidable. There are still two-thirds or so of the season remaining and plenty of points on offer, but the 10 points that separate them from safety already looks like a chasm.
The Blades did superbly well to finish ninth last season in their return to the top flight after a 12-year absence, but things have very much unravelled this time around. In fact, they are on course for a couple of unwanted Premier League records. They are just two games away from equalling Queens Park Rangers’ record of 16 winless matches from the start of a campaign, set in 2012, and also on pace to set a new points low, lower than Derby’s 11 in 2007-08.
Neither do the underlying numbers do much to support the idea that they can still turn the situation around. Only West Bromwich Albion currently have worse metrics at this stage. SUFC have gone from being a pretty much even goal difference team in terms of both top-line and underlying numbers last season to one that is combining problems in front of goal with a severely leaky defence.
It all seems perfectly set up for Everton to sweep in and claim a fourth consecutive league victory for the second time this season. Carlo Ancelotti’s side began the campaign that way, following an opening day win away at Tottenham Hotspur with three more triumphs, and after a more patchy run of results thereafter now again seem to have found their feet.
Victories at home to Chelsea and away at Leicester City were followed by a 2-1 win at home to Arsenal on Saturday. Everton went ahead through an early own goal and then after an Arsenal equaliser from the penalty spot following a foul from Tom Davies, regained the lead on the stroke of half-time as Yerry Mina rose to head home a corner at the near post.
Everton finished 12th last season and weren’t really considered a genuine top-four candidate prior to the start of this campaign, despite another summer of heavy spending. Their metrics may not fully support their current position among that group, but they are an improvement on last season and aren’t all that far away from those of their likely challengers.
Ancelotti’s side are very good at generating chances and goals from set-piece situations – their tally of eight goals from them is the joint highest in the league – and if that can help them to continue stringing results together they might just work their way into serious contention.
Everton come into this match less well-rested than their hosts after being eliminated from the EFL Cup at the quarter-final stage by two late goals against Manchester United on Thursday, but even with the possibility of extra fatigue Everton should still have enough to see off their struggling hosts.
Backing them to do so at a one goal handicap seems to offer the best risk/reward profile for this match. So our Sheffield Utd vs Everton betting tips verdict for this preview is:
- You could just bet on Everton to win because they look fair value at 10/11 in the odds table below but we will chance our arm a little more and go for Everton -1 goal on the Asian handicap @ 8/5.
Compare SUFC vs EFC Match Betting Odds from Trusted UK Bookies