Sheffield United begin their Premier League campaign by hosting another side who finished in the top ten last season, Wolves, at Bramall Lane on Monday night.
The Blades were last season’s surprise package, finishing in ninth, and will want to start their campaign with a win. But Wolves will be tough opponents, having finished seventh last term, and will have hopes of breaking into the top six this season.
Sheffield United are sharp at home
Sheffield United exceeded expectations when they returned to the Premier League last season, flirting with securing a European berth before finishing ninth.
Many had tipped them to go straight back down but Chris Wilder’s men were more than comfortable competing against the best clubs in the country.
The Blades’ success was built on solid form at Bramall Lane, where they claimed 33 of their 54 points, and they will look to make their base a fortress once again in 2020-21.
Monday’s season-opener against Wolves looks tricky on paper as the visitors look to build on a second successive seventh-placed finish.
However, the quick turnaround from last season, which has prevented Wolves from playing any pre-season matches, could favour the hosts.
Sheffield United have been building up to this clash with friendlies against Derby County and Preston North End, affording players the opportunity to blow off the cobwebs.
They will be further ahead in their attempts to reach match-fitness and should be able to use that to their advantage. It’s also worth considering that Wolves have lost on their last two visits to Bramall Lane.
Wilder’s men hard to break down
Wilder’s men pride themselves on being a tight defensive unit, conceding just 39 goals last season, and that is likely to be a key facet of their game plan again during the coming campaign.
Indeed, they had the fourth-best defensive record in the division last term and shipped just 15 goals on home soil in 2019-20.
Wilder can still call on his regular back three of John Egan, Chris Basham, and Jack O’Connell, and Wolves look set for a tough evening trying to break them down.
Wolves haven’t registered at Bramall Lane in either of their last two visits in the league, including last season’s 1-0 loss which took place in July.
The visitors were the lowest scorers on the road, netting just 24 times, of any of the top seven sides in 2019-20.
Defences on top in South Yorkshire
Having considered Sheffield United’s organisation at the back, Wolves also deserve a lot of credit for the way they defended the last term.
Interestingly, both managers have a preference for playing with a back three and, therefore, it should be no surprise that they were almost identical in the goals conceded column when 2019-20 concluded.
Wolves shipped 40, just one more than Monday’s opponents, and recent meetings between the two clubs haven’t been full of attacking intent.
Last season’s engagement at Bramall Lane ended 1-0 after Egan scored in the 90th minute, while the reverse fixture finished 1-1.
Premier League clubs looked off the pace when returning from a three-month enforced break in June and, without a full pre-season under their belt, games could lack tempo in the early weeks of the 2020-21 term as squads look to get up to speed.