A tale of two trios to decide outcome – The view from Sheffield United

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Liverpool make the trip to Sheffield United on Saturday lunchtime, with the Blades in buoyant spirits ahead of the game.

The Reds made it six wins out of six in the Premier League at Chelsea last weekend, before seeing off MK Dons in the League Cup.

Meanwhile, United picked up an impressive 2-0 victory away to Everton, seeing them rise to 10th in the table, though lost midweek to Sunderland in their own cup action.

Chris Wilder’s side have caught the eye since their return to the top flight, having gone into the campaign as favourites for the drop.

With the match fast approaching, we spoke to the Sheffield Star’s Danny Hall (@dannyhall04) to get his thoughts on both sides’ seasons and Saturday’s meeting.

 

Sheffield United sit 10th in the Premier League – how happy are you with their return to the Premier League?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, September 21, 2019: Sheffield United's Lys Mousset during the FA Premier League match between Everton FC and Sheffield United FC at Goodison Park. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Extremely.

I am sure every single Sheffield United fan would have snatched your hand off if you had offered them this position at this stage of the season, including Chris Wilder himself.

It has been a strange one, though, in that their away form has been superb so far – unbeaten, including a draw at Chelsea and a 2-0 victory at Everton that no doubt will have gone down well with your readers – but they’ve lost twice at home, on a ground that was such a fortress last season.

The step up in quality has been evident from opposing sides but, pleasingly, a number of Blades players have suggested they will be able to cope with the jump in quality, too.

It is still early days and nobody is getting carried away just yet, but so far, so good.

 

Have the Blades continued playing in the same way that earned them promotion last season?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, September 21, 2019: Sheffield United's Chris Basham during the FA Premier League match between Everton FC and Sheffield United FC at Goodison Park. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Yes, and no.

They have still lined up in a 3-5-2 formation, and their outside centre-backs still get forward, but they aren’t as gung-ho as they were last season and are still playing, I feel, with an element of caution.

That is entirely understandable, by the way, and by no means a criticism, but it does make the regulars in the Bramall Lane press box chuckle when commentators rave about United’s attacking centre-backs as if it’s a revelation.

This is the fourth season they’ve played it now and there is still a lot more to come.

The only real change has been the use of a flat three in midfield, rather than a roving No.10 which they used before this season.

It’s worked very well so far.

 

Which players have shone brightest in the opening month?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, September 21, 2019: Sheffield United's Lys Mousset (L) celebrates scoring the second goal with team-mate Oliver McBurnie during the FA Premier League match between Everton FC and Sheffield United FC at Goodison Park. Sheffield United won 2-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The beauty of United is that no one player is bigger than the others, so it would be difficult and unfair to single out one.

Dean Henderson has shone in goal; the entire back-five have been largely good bar a couple of individual errors; Luke Freeman impressed when he came in for the injured John Fleck.

If I was pushed to give my outstanding performers so far, I’d go for John Egan and Enda Stevens, the Irish defenders.

Egan headed away everything in his path at Goodison Park – the game could still be going on now and I don’t think he would have been beaten – while Stevens looks every inch a Premier League player so far.

 

What is your realistic aim for the campaign, as things stand?

Survival.

United are a humble club that doesn’t get ahead of itself – stay up, consolidate and go from there.

 

How do you rate Liverpool’s start to the season? Title favourites?

LONDON, ENGLAND - Sunday, September 22, 2019: Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold celebrates scoring the first goal during the FA Premier League match between Chelsea's FC and Liverpool FC at Stamford Bridge. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

You can only describe it as exceptional. The way Liverpool have rolled from game to game has been remarkable.

I backed them pre-season in FourFourTwo to win the title and nothing I’ve seen so far will change my mind.

 

Who do you fear most for the Reds on Saturday?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, September 14, 2019: Liverpool's Sadio Mane (R) celebrates scoring the second goal with team-mate Mohamed Salah (L) during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Newcastle United FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Another tough one, so I’ll say everyone!

Full-back pair Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson are exceptional, Virgil van Dijk is a monster and that front three…wow.

The obvious one is Mohamed Salah, but Roberto Firmino is such a clever player and Sadio Mane‘s level of threat speaks for itself.

 

Where will the key battles take place?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, September 14, 2019: Liverpool's Roberto Firmino during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Newcastle United FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Liverpool’s front three against United’s back three will be key, obviously, as will the battle in the technical area.

Wilder and his staff will have devised some sort of plan to keep Liverpool’s threats at bay, but will it pay off?

Stevens will likely have his toughest afternoon of the season against Alexander-Arnold – if he lets him cross the ball often United could be in trouble.

 

Finally, hit us with your prediction…

LONDON, ENGLAND - Sunday, September 22, 2019: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp celebrates with Trent Alexander-Arnold after the FA Premier League match between Chelsea's FC and Liverpool FC at Stamford Bridge. Liverpool won 2-1. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

It’s head vs. heart time.

My heart says United are capable of earning a draw, but my head says Liverpool’s record will continue here.

One thing’s for certain, United will leave everything out there and anything they do manage to pick up will have been more than earned.

 

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