LIVERPOOL VS. SHEFFIELD UNITED
| Saturday, October 24th |
Premier League | Anfield
8PM GMT/3PM EST
The Blades have approached matches by ceding possession somewhat and relying on their organization and tactical approach. Even if we’re all tired of hearing about “overlapping center halves” at this point, Wilder’s method of overloading spaces with his defenders has been effective and fun to watch, and more games are needed to see if their tactics have been sussed or if they’ve just been a bit unlucky.
Their major issue comes in their chance conversion, as they have converted just 19% of their chances thus far this season, down from 24% last season. Though this seems a small difference, Sheffield United don’t create many chances, and tend to rely on good quality of the chances they do create, both through open play and from set plays. This combines with another potential issue: Sheffield United can no longer rely on the skill of Dean Henderson in goal, and Henderson’s performance levels were crucial for a team that largely played for narrow victories in 2019/20. Aaron Ramsdale is a player to watch.
Their underlying metrics in both attack and defense aren’t terrible, and their counter-attacks are slightly more efficient at this point than they were last season. It is possible that just their finishing, rather than their overall approach, needs attention. Manager Chris Wilder might well give Rhian Brewster, who joined the Blades from Liverpool near the end of the transfer window, his first start for his new side. Both managers rate the youngster highly, and his ability to score from a number of different areas might allow Sheffield United to be a bit less predictable.
As Wilder has noted, injuries have hit his side hard, with Jack O’Connell out for the season, while Lys Mousset and John Fleck are also out for long periods. New boy Max Lowe is questionable following a head injury on his debut at Fulham.
Projected Liverpool Lineup (4-3-3)
Adrián; Alexander-Arnold, Fabinho, Gomez, Robertson; Henderson, Thiago, Wijnaldum; Salah, Firmino, Mané
This will be the first match in 75 Liverpool Premier League games that does not feature Virgil Van Dijk, and the Reds will look to take three points at home without the Dutchman shoring up the back line. Joël Matip might be healthy enough to take his place next to Joe Gomez, but Jürgen Klopp might well want to give Fabinho the chance to get into a rhythm playing in the heart of the defense.
Sheffield United might be the ideal side for Klopp’s men at this moment, as a high-intensity game that could well be very open suits the creativity and graft that one would expect from a Liverpool side with a point to prove. While Brewster is a threat, Klopp might relish a threat he knows so much about, as the side comes into this test with little time to prepare following their Champions League match midweek.
Other than Van Dijk, Klopp has confirmed that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Konstantinos Tsimikas are unavailable. Though he noted that Alisson won’t be “rushed” back, the manager did not confirm whether the goalkeeper, Naby Keïta, or Thiago will be available or unavailable for this match, so keep an eye out for images of training. If fit, expect Alisson and Thiago to feature.
If he starts, this will be Andy Robertson’s 100th Premier League appearance for the Reds. The left back was one of the star performers against Ajax mid-week, and this achievement emphasizes his importance to the squad as well as the settled nature of this Liverpool side, as Robertson’s landmark would closely follow Mohamed Salah’s 100th goal in a red shirt.
What the Managers Had to Say
Jurgen Klopp: “It will be a very intense game, it’s Sheffield, that’s how they play! If you want to win the game you have to be intense yourself. And if Rhian [Brewster] is on the pitch we know we should not let him finish at all. Wherever he gets the ball he is a natural finisher and that’s his biggest threat.”
Chris Wilder: “It’s quite easy for every club when they’re doing well to say ‘we’ve got a fantastic group of players and a great team spirit.’ And [after results like ours in 2020/21] it does get tested, and there’s no bigger test than going to Anfield on Saturday night, regardless of the situation there. Though they have a couple of injuries to world-class players, I’m still not expecting anything less than 100% from them.”
Referee: Mike Dean Assistants: Darren Cann, Mark Scholes Fourth Official: Andy Madley VAR: Andre Marriner Assistant VAR: Scott Ledger
Kickoff is set for 8PM GMT/3PM EST tomorrow, and television listings for the match can be found on LiveSoccerTV. In the meantime, we’ll be keeping you updated with all the buildup to the game, including team news as it’s released, our live matchday thread, and post-match recaps from The Liverpool Offside staff. If you want to join the discussion, sign up for an SB Nation account to have your say on the action as it happens.