Sheffield United-Crystal Palace Preview

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·3 min read
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Chris Wilder hopes to be able to add to Sheffield United's squad in January, as the Blades head into their first match of 2021 with just two points to their name.

Lowly United kick-off the new year with a trip to Crystal Palace, who are without a win in six Premier League games.

After performing well against Manchester United and managing to draw at Brighton and Hove Albion, successive 1-0 defeats to Everton and Burnley, combined with a raft of positive coronavirus cases, have set the Blades back further.

Wilder's side are desperately short of goals, while injuries to Sander Berge and Jack O'Connell have left them depleted in midfield and defence, and the Blades boss is aiming to bring in fresh faces this month.

"We do need in my opinion to make the group better," Wilder told Sky Sports News.

"Over to the chief exec and the board for them to make their decision or to pursue the targets we're looking at and the positions we're looking at."

United won both of their league meetings with Palace last season, and Eagles boss Roy Hodgson believes the Blades have been highly unfortunate this term.

"I certainly remember the two defeats at the hands of a Sheffield United team last year that were sweeping all before them. What has surprised me is I see the same Sheffield United team [this year] that I saw last year," he said.

"That is one of the anomalies of football. As far as I'm concerned we're facing a team who are very difficult to beat. We're much more used to going into a game as underdogs… they have every bit as much of a chance, Sheffield United, of winning the game."

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Crystal Palace - Wilfried Zaha

Zaha has scored eight goals in 14 Premier League appearances this season, twice as many as he netted in 2019-20 (4 in 38 apps). Indeed, Zaha is looking to reach double figures for goals in a Premier League campaign for only the second time in his career, also doing so in 2018-19 (10 goals in 34 games).

Sheffield United - Ethan Ampadu

Ampadu has been played in a variety of positions by Wilder, but the Chelsea loanee has so far failed to find his feet in south Yorkshire. The Wales youngster has plenty of potential, but the Blades need him to start showing it on a consistent basis.

KEY OPTA FACTS

•Only the Blades (19) are on a longer current run of games without a clean sheet in the Premier League than Crystal Palace (15). United are the only side in 2020-21 yet to record a Premier League shutout, while the Eagles have the second lowest total so far (one).

•United are winless in their 16 Premier League games this season (D2 L14) - equalling Queens Park Rangers' Premier League record of longest winless run from the start of a campaign (16 in 2012-13). The last English top-flight side to fail to win any of their first 17 games in a season was Bolton Wanderers in 1902-03 (22).

•Only West Brom (43) have had fewer shots on target in the Premier League this season than Sheffield United (46). The Blades also have the biggest negative difference between expected goals (16.3) and goals scored (8) this season, netting around eight goals fewer than would normally be expected based on the quality of their chances.

•When playing their first league game of a calendar year at home, Palace have won just one of their last six such matches (D2 L3), beating Wolves 3-1 in 2013.

•Palace were one of just two sides United won home and away against in the Premier League last season (along with Norwich City), and were also one of two teams the Blades kept two clean sheets against (also Aston Villa).