Chelsea v Sheffield United is a game that looks much different for Chelsea now than it did three weeks ago.
Nobody would’ve believed that, following Chelsea’s 3-3 draw with Southampton, the Blues would subsequently keep five consecutive clean sheets thereafter.
However, that is exactly what Frank Lampard’s side have achieved ahead of Sheffield United’s trip to Stamford Bridge. Edouard Mendy and Thiago Silva, in particular, have had a major impact, while the partnership of Kurt Zouma and the Brazilian is blossoming.
Lampard’s side will hope to maintain this excellent recent record against a side in poor form. Sheffield United are 19th, with only one point and three goals in seven games thus far.
This match represents a huge opportunity for Chelsea to gain ground on either Manchester City or Liverpool, who meet at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday.
Wednesday’s 3-0 win over Rennes saw Frank Lampard, once again, utilise a 4-3-3 formation. Kai Havertz’ positive COVID-19 test ensured he missed the Rennes game but instead of tweaking his system, Lampard used N’Golo Kante in a right-side midfield role with Jorginho at the base of midfield, rather than Jorginho and Kante acting as a double-pivot.
With impressive showings against Burnley and Rennes, it is likely Lampard will continue with this 4-3-3 and the same attacking setup.
At the back, Edouard Mendy keeps impressing and will continue in goal. Lampard’s only selection question is likely to be at right-back. Between Reece James and Cesar Azpilicueta, there are two players whom Lampard is equally happy to choose.
James should get the nod after his assist against Rennes against a side likely to defend deep. The rest of the defence picks itself, with Kurt Zouma, Thiago Silva and Ben Chilwell all certainties.
Likely XI: Mendy; James, Zouma, Thiago Silva, Chilwell; Jorginho, Kante, Mount; Ziyech, Abraham, Werner.
Chris Wilder’s side took four points from Chelsea in 2019/20, including a 2-2 draw at Stamford Bridge. Their defensive solidity coupled with efficiency from crosses ensured that the Blades were a bad match-up for Lampard’s side last season. Sheffield United’s 9th-placed finish was just reward for their fantastic season upon promotion.
However, the start of 2020/21 has been a different story. They are averaging just 0.4 goals per game, emphasising weakness in attacking areas. Wilder will be hoping that the acquisition of Rhian Brewster for £23m will increase their ruthlessness in front of goal. For a team underperforming their xG by almost five goals, Chelsea will want to avoid being the side to change their fortunes in front of goal.
With no Ethan Ampadu to choose from, Wilder is going to have to alter his midfield. Ampadu is of interest to Chelsea fans, since he’s on-loan to the Yorkshire side. The Welshman has started to have an impact on the Blades, averaging two tackles and four clearances per game in a midfield role, highlighting qualities which Frank Lampard will want in his squad.
This should be a comfortable win for Chelsea. With Sheffield United out of form and Chelsea in form, there is no reason for this to be anything other than a comfortable Blues win. Chelsea v Sheffield United should present an opportunity for Lampard’s side to extend their good form and carry on the momentum that is starting to build.