Liverpool vs Sheffield United
Referee: Paul Tierney
Liverpool host Sheffield United on Thursday evening in the last fixture of Gameweek 21 in the Premier League.
The visitors are one of the feel-good stories of the competition this year, playing some attractive football while also remaining resolute at the back.
If the Blades can upset the odds and take all three points back to South Yorkshire, they will rise to fifth in the table. Regardless of the result at Anfield, Chris Wilder and his team have done a fantastic job in effectively securing their Premier League status for next year while leaving fans dreaming of a push for European football.
Despite the relative success of Sheffield United so far this season, it is Liverpool who are receiving the majority of the plaudits. 18 wins and a draw from their 19 Premier League games this season, the Reds are 10 points and 11 points clear of Leicester City and Manchester City respectively, but with two games in hand. Some have already admitted defeat, that Liverpool will finally end their 30-year wait for a league title come May, but Jurgen Klopp will not let that get to his players as we enter the second half of the season.
In the reverse fixture at Bramall Lane, the two sides were evenly matched, and it was only thanks to a slice of fortune that Liverpool came away with three points. Gini Wijnaldum’s 70th-minute volley was fumbled over the line by Dean Henderson to secure the victory for the Merseysiders, in what has been the only blemish on an otherwise excellent debut season in the top flight for the goalkeeper on loan from Manchester United.
Klopp could look to make a few changes from the scrappy win against Wolves last time out, given that his side faces Everton in the FA Cup on Sunday evening. However, in recent weeks, a lot of the squad players have performed admirably and that is proof that regardless of the starting eleven that Klopp sends out, the team will be packed full of top-class talent capable of beating anyone.
Liverpool’s new signing Takumi Minamino is not registered in time to feature, while long-term absentees Fabinho, Joel Matip and Dejan Lovren likely to remain out. Jordan Henderson has featured heavily in Liverpool’s packed festive schedule and could make way for either Naby Keita or James Milner to slot in. Given Divock Origi’s excellent scoring record against Everton, it is probable that the Belgian forward will be reserved by Klopp for that fixture on Sunday. Expect Liverpool’s typical front three to start.
Sheffield United come into this fixture having to manage the fitness of Lys Mousset and John Lundstram. Two of Wilder’s star performers from this campaign, both will undergo late fitness tests. If Mousset is injured, expect Oli McBurnie to be partnered by David McGoldrick up front, while Muhamed Besic would be the most likely replacement for Lundstram.
Predicted Starting XIs
Liverpool (4-3-3): Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Van Dijk, Gomez, Robertson; Wijnaldum, Milner, Keita; Salah, Firmino, Mane.
Sheffield United (3-5-2): Henderson: Basham, Egan, O’Connell; Baldock, Lundstream, Fleck, Norwood, Stevens; McGoldrick, McBurnie.
Prediction: Liverpool 3-0 Sheffield United
Unfortunately Blades fans, it is impossible not to back Liverpool these days. Sheffield United do have the capability to trouble the hosts, but with the table-toppers looking more and more secure at the back, Klopp will know that if his front three turn up, then they will likely have too much for the visitors.