It’s a Super Sunday on both sides of the Pond, where a big bout of handegg is set to take place in Florida a bit later. (Would’ve been appropriate if we were playing the other major Sheffield club, Wednesday, on this Superb ... Owl ... Sunday; alas.)
But first, we have a couple Chelsea matches on tap, the second of which is Chelsea returning to the scene of our greatest humbling of last season. (And that will be preceded by Liverpool vs. Manchester City, if you want to see the defending and impending Premier League champions battle it out as well.)
Sheffield United embarrassed Chelsea to the tune of 3-0 at Bramall Lane back in July, and while they are not nearly as good this season as last, and we did beat them 4-1 in the reverse fixture already, there are no easy games in the Premier League and Chris Wilder will certainly pose a different tactical challenge for Thomas Tuchel.
Given other results around us, with West Ham held to a draw at Craven Cottage by Fulham, and Everton snatching a late draw at Old Trafford against Manchester United, we have a great chance to move up to fifth and keep closing that gap to the top four teams with a win here.
Date / Time: Sunday, February 7, 2021, 19.15 GMT; 2:15pm EST; 12:45am IST (next day)
Venue: Bramall Lane, Sheffield, England
Referees: Kevin Friend (on pitch); Simon Hooper (VAR)
Forecast: Freezing, windy, chance of snow
On TV: Sky Sports Main Event (UK); none (USA); Star Sports Select HD1 (India); SuperSport Premier League (NGA); elsewhere
Streaming: Sky Go (UK); Peacock (USA); Hotstar (India); DStv Now (NGA) — Peacock is NBC’s streaming service, and is very much the future (and increasingly the present, too) with NBCSN going away at the end of the year. It’s not the best (poor UI, lag, etc.), but it’s what we’ve got. Comcast Xfinity customers get it for free (still counts against your data). Others have to pay $5/month or $50/year ($10 & $100 for the premium ad-free version). Comcast is the parent company of NBC and an investor in Vox/SB Nation. Here’s our affiliate link if you want to make our corporate overlords happy.
Sheffield United team news: United’s massive drop in results from pushing for Europe last season to bringing up the rear this season remains one of the biggest shocks even in this most unpredictable season. That said, all three of their wins in the league have come in their last five games (including one at Old Trafford!), having gone winless in the first seventeen (17!) Premier League matches of the season — that’s almost exactly an entire half-season!
Wilder is under no illusion that their recent form is the start of some sort of great escape — they’re still 12 points off safety with 16 matches to go — but in a way, it also means that there’s not much pressure on them anymore. They have nothing to lose. Can’t sink lower than bottom of the table! And that could make them dangerous, even if there’s no Magic of the Cup™ to tap into tonight.
Sheffield will be without mainstay Ethan Ampadu, who’s ineligible as per Premier League loan rules. The Chelsea loanee had started the last thirteen in a row in all competitions (lately as the left-sided center back in a back three) for the Blades. Sander Berge and Jack O’Connell are long-term injury victims, while George Baldock, Ben Osborn, and Enda Stevens face late fitness tests, with the latter two more likely to feature than the first.
Chelsea team news: Speaking of 17-match streaks, Chelsea had an unbeaten one of that length earlier in the season, but things took a sharp turn for the worse a couple months ago, which eventually cost Frank Lampard his job. Tuchel is unbeaten in his first three games, with three clean sheets and two wins, and overall, Chelsea have won five of seven in all competitions. But the fight to recover a top-four position is far from over, and we must keep winning.
We also have a potentially very concerning injury to deal with after Thursday’s 1-0 win over Spurs, with Thiago Silva set for a spell on the sidelines. The severity of his injury isn’t really known yet, which in and of itself is a worrying sign already. Kai Havertz and Kurt Zouma have also been dealing with knocks recently.
Tuchel has favored a possession-based 3-4-3 so far, with some rotation in attack and almost no rotation in the back five (center backs and central midfielders). That might change today, given the short rest from the midweek and with five matches still coming up before the end of the month, including the first leg against Atlético Madrid in the Champions League Round of 16.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. One game at a time, right, Tommy T?
Previously: Chelsea won 4-1 in the reverse fixture, with four different players on the scoreboard, including Timo Werner! He’s not scored a league goal since, so this would be a poetically perfect time to start doing so again.