Brewster, a bad start, and impact of no fans – The view from Sheffield United

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Rhian Brewster could make his first Premier League start on Saturday, against Liverpool at Anfield as Sheffield United provide the opposition.

The Reds bounced back from their frustration at Everton by beating Ajax 1-0 in the Champions League in midweek, showcasing much-needed defensive solidity in the process.

Now it’s time for a return to Premier League action, with Chris Wilder’s struggling United side making the trip to Anfield on Saturday night.

The Blades have earned just one point from their opening five matches this season, sitting 19th in the table and looking a far cry from the team who shone in 2019/20.

Ahead of the game, we spoke to the Sheffield Star’s Danny Hall (@dannyhall04) to hear about the Blades’ started to the season and Liverpool’s title hopes without Virgil van Dijk.

 

How would you assess Sheffield United’s start to the season?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, September 21, 2019: Sheffield United's manager Chris Wilder celebrates his side's victory after 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)

Well, it hasn’t been an ideal one, that’s for sure.

One point after five games doesn’t represent anything but a poor start to the season, although the devil can be in the detail a little with things like this.

Sheffield United still have one of the best defensive records in the Premier League so far this season, and have yet to play particularly badly for 90 minutes.

Their problem has been scoring goals – only two so far in the league, despite an expected goals metric of five.

If they had converted their chances, it would leave them five points better off and put a completely different slant on their start to the season.

 

Has anything changed that’s made a difference to your fortunes?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Thursday, January 2, 2020: Sheffield United's manager Chris Wilder during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Sheffield United FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The biggest change by far from a United point of view is games behind closed doors.

Yes, every club is in the same boat, but there is no club in the Premier League that needs its fans as much as United, as their records before and after lockdown demonstrate.

The quality is still there, as seen in post-lockdown wins over Tottenham and Chelsea at Bramall Lane, but the intensity that United play at needs the crowd to carry them through.

Without them, it has been a real struggle at times.

 

Do you think the Blades are now in a relegation fight?

SHEFFIELD, ENGLAND - Thursday, September 26, 2019: Sheffield United's John Fleck during the FA Premier League match between Sheffield United FC and Liverpool FC at Bramall Lane. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

I think it’s a little bit early for that – the same way that Everton and Aston Villa can’t be regarded as genuine title contenders after a good start.

But the games don’t get any easier – after Liverpool, United face Man City and Chelsea, and could conceivably go into November with only a point on the board.

Many Blades would snatch your hand off for 17th place now, but there is a long, long way to go.

 

How happy are you with the signing of Brewster?

SALZBURG, AUSTRIA - Tuesday, August 25, 2020: Liverpool's two goal-scorer Rhian Brewster is interviewed by LFC.TV after a preseason friendly match between FC Red Bull Salzburg and Liverpool FC at the Red Bull Arena. (Pic by Propaganda)

It is a hell of a lot of money for a club like United to spend, especially on a youngster who hadn’t played a minute in the Premier League until he signed.

But Rhian Brewster is clearly a player with a lot of pedigree, and everyone I have spoken to about him from a Liverpool perspective speaks very highly of him.

It is a signing for the here and now, but also for the future, and it will be fascinating to see how he goes when he gets his chance.

What better time than Saturday, against his old club?

 

As for Liverpool, are you expecting them to retain their title?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, October 17, 2020: Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah (R) celebrates after scoring the second goal with team-mate Sadio Mané (L) during the FA Premier League match between Everton FC and Liverpool FC, the 237th Merseyside Derby, at Goodison Park. The game was played behind closed doors due to the UK government’s social distancing laws during the Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic. The game ended in a 2-2 draw. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

I think it will be a close-run thing this season, especially after the blow of losing Virgil van Dijk.

There seems to be a bit of wounded animal about Man City as they look to regain their crown, and I think it will be a decent title race.

I backed Liverpool to win it last season, but won’t be making any predictions either way this time around.

 

Looking ahead to Saturday’s game, who stands out most for the Reds?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, September 12, 2020: Liverpool’s Andy Robertson (L) and Trent Alexander-Arnold (R) before the opening FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Leeds United FC at Anfield. The game was played behind closed doors due to the UK government’s social distancing laws during the Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Wow, where do I start?

The front-three are obvious, but the full-backs are unbelievable – Andy Robertson has that bit of s***housery that I like, and Trent Alexander-Arnold oozes quality.

But Thiago could be a game-changer in midfield and if he is on song (and fit) it could be a long afternoon for United’s midfield.

 

Where do you see the key battles taking place?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, October 17, 2020: Liverpool’s Thiago Alcantara during the FA Premier League match between Everton FC and Liverpool FC, the 237th Merseyside Derby, at Goodison Park. The game was played behind closed doors due to the UK government’s social distancing laws during the Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

If United’s back-three can contain Liverpool’s attacking trio it will give them half a chance.

Then they will only have to keep Thiago quiet. And Robertson. And Alexander-Arnold…

 

Finally, hit us with your prediction…

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp on the touchline during the Premier League match at Goodison Park, Liverpool.

The whole world will be expecting a home win, and if Liverpool turn up then it is hard to see anything else.

But for that reason, the pressure is off United, so I wouldn’t fall off my chair in surprise if they managed to nick a point.

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