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Preview: Sheffield United vs. Tottenham Hotspur - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Thursday night's Premier League clash between European hopefuls Sheffield United and Tottenham Hotspur, including predictions, team news and lineups.

Two teams with aspirations of European qualification will meet at Bramall Lane on Thursday evening when out-of-form Sheffield United host Tottenham Hotspur in the Steel City.

The match will be Sheffield United's first at home in the Premier League since March 7, while it is also Tottenham's first away game since returning from lockdown.

Match preview

Tottenham Hotspur manager Jose Mourinho pictured on June 19, 2020© Reuters

These two sides were in vastly contrasting form before lockdown, and they have come out of the break with differing fortunes too - albeit this time the other way around.

Sheffield United had Champions League qualification essentially in their own hands back in March following a run of just one defeat in 10 games across all competitions, whereas they are winless in four since the restart.

Spurs, meanwhile, were on the worst run of Jose Mourinho's managerial career pre-lockdown and saw their top-four hopes fading, but have since taken four points from two big games against Manchester United and West Ham United.

Improvement is certainly still needed for Spurs as they chase back-to-back Premier League wins for the first time since February, but the 2-0 triumph in their derby against the Hammers was a welcome and overdue return to winning ways.

The result lifted Mourinho's men up to seventh in the table, which is good enough for a Europa League spot but still seven points adrift of the top five and nine off the top four.

Tottenham Hotspur striker Harry Kane scores against West Ham on June 23, 2020© Reuters

Fifth will be the first target with that good enough to secure Champions League football as things stand, but seven points is a significant deficit to make up in seven games, particularly with those immediately above them all in good form too.

If they are to close that gap then they simply must improve their away form; Spurs have won just three Premier League games on the road since January 2019 - 17 months ago - and two of those came against teams currently in the bottom four.

Indeed, across all competitions they have won only two of their last 12 away games, the most recent of which saw them brushed aside by RB Leipzig in the Champions League on March 10.

On the face of it, taking on a Sheffield United team with only one defeat in their last 11 home league games is exactly what they do not need, then, but the Blades look like a completely different side to the one which defied all expectations before the stoppage.

Chris Wilder's men appear to have been hit hardest by the loss of momentum when it comes to results, drawing one and losing three of their four games since returning, and scoring only one goal in the process.

Chris Wilder pictured on June 17, 2020© Reuters

The statistics are damning; they have lost three games on the bounce for only the second time since Wilder was appointed in 2016, have conceded three goals in consecutive league games for the first time since January 2016 and have failed to score in three consecutive league games for the first time since September 2013.

Scoring goals was never Sheffield United's main strength - they have fewer than 19th-placed Aston Villa - but keeping them out at the other end was the foundation for their success before lockdown and they have not been able to do that in recent matches.

The Blades' two biggest defeats this season have come in their last two games - back-to-back 3-0 losses to Newcastle United and Manchester United - and they made it eight goals conceded in three games during a 2-1 FA Cup quarter-final defeat to Arsenal on Sunday.

The recent form should not undermine what has already been a stellar campaign for Sheffield United, though; had you offered Wilder their current position and no threat of relegation after 31 games before the season began, he would have bitten your hand off.

However, it has threatened to derail their unlikely challenge for Europe, and an upcoming run of fixtures in which they face five of the six teams immediately above them in the table in succession will be make-or-break for those hopes.

Sheffield United Premier League form: WDWDLL
Sheffield United form (all competitions): WWDLLL

Tottenham Premier League form: WLLDDW
Tottenham form (all competitions): LLDLDW

Team News

Sheffield United's John Lundstram celebrates scoring their first goal on November 2, 2019© Reuters

Sheffield United are likely to be without John Lundstram and Jack O'Connell for this match, although both will be given every chance to prove their fitness.

Lundstram lasted only 35 minutes of the FA Cup defeat to Arsenal as he picked up a shoulder injury, and Wilder has admitted that he is "touch and go" for this game.

The United boss also confirmed that he will not take any risks over the fitness of O'Connell, suggesting that he will miss out again on Thursday night.

The likes of Sander Berge and Billy Sharp could return after being named on the bench at the weekend, while Dean Henderson and John Egan will be involved after sitting out the last league game against Manchester United.

Spurs, meanwhile, have no fresh injury concerns with Juan Foyth, Japhet Tanganga and Troy Parrott all sidelined for this match.

The likes of Toby Alderweireld, Jan Vertonghen, Tanguy Ndombele, Harry Winks, Steven Bergwijn and Erik Lamela all sat out the derby win over West Ham and face a battle to regain their starting spots for this one too.

The West Ham game saw Harry Kane mark his 200th Premier League appearance for Tottenham with his 137th goal - only Sergio Aguero (138) has netted more in his opening 200 games for a club in the competition.

Sheffield United possible starting lineup:
Henderson; Basham, Egan, Robinson; Baldock, Berge, Norwood, Fleck, Stevens; McGoldrick, Mousset

Tottenham possible starting lineup:
Lloris; Aurier, Sanchez, Dier, Davies; Sissoko, Lo Celso; Bergwijn, Alli, Son; Kane

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We say: Sheffield United 0-1 Tottenham

Tottenham have not won a league game away to Sheffield United since 1975, but given the home side's form they may not have a better chance than right now.

The Blades' opening 28 games of the campaign should not be forgotten and they are still a difficult team to beat regardless of their last two results, but with Spurs back to almost a full complement of players we can see them edging this one.


Who will win Thursday's Premier League clash between Sheffield United and Tottenham?

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Tottenham Hotspur manager Jose Mourinho pictured on June 19, 2020
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