Sheffield United vs. Bournemouth
Venue: Bramail Lane
Sheffield United play host to Bournemouth this afternoon with the opportunity to move within two points of fourth-placed Chelsea in the Premier League standings.
Having enjoyed a remarkable six months back in the Premier League, there will be some who are expecting Sheffield United to tail off towards the end of the campaign with relegation unlikely to enter their thought process.
However, there is an argument that Chris Wilder and his first-team squad will be at their most dangerous when having nothing to lose in the race to achieve a European place next season, with the Champions League not out of the question.
Success over the Cherries today will move the Blades ahead of Tottenham Hotspur, as well as to within two points of the top four.
With today’s game being followed by two more home matches against Brighton & Hove Albion and Norwich City, United have been provided with, on paper, a perfect set of fixtures to heap the pressure on the bigger clubs around them.
While goals are proving to be a problem in the final third, their resolve at the back could prove more decisive, and they remain with the second best backline in the division.
The same cannot be said of Bournemouth, who have kept just one clean sheet in their last 14 outings in the Premier League, but there are signs that Eddie Howe’s team are in the right frame of mind to put together a much-needed improved run of form.
The south coast outfit would have been aware that the stakes were high when hosting Brighton & Hove Albion and Aston Villa, two other clubs who are striving to move clear of the bottom three as soon as possible.
However, in both fixtures, Bournemouth netted twice in quick succession before half time, and it proved to be pivotal as they claimed maximum points at the Vitality Stadium.
That return has at least provided Howe and his players with a bit of breathing space ahead of what has become a difficult trip for every club this season, a factor which could finally allow them to play with more freedom for the first time since occupying a mid-table spot at the beginning of November.
Sheffield United possible starting lineup: Henderson, Basham, Egan, O’Connell, Baldock, Berge, Norwood, Fleck, Stevens, McBurnie, Sharp.
Bournemouth possible starting lineup: Ramsdale, Smith, Francis, Ake, Rico, Gosling, Billing, L.Cook, H.Wilson, C.Wilson, Fraser.