After a stuttering start to the new Premier League season, things don’t get any easier for Sheffield United this weekend when they travel to Champions Liverpool.
The Blades picked up their first point of the 2020/21 campaign on Sunday with a 1-1 draw against newly promoted Fulham. Even then, they had to rely on an 85th minute equaliser from Billy Sharp from the penalty spot.
Going into that match they had lost all four of their league fixtures so far. Sharp’s spot kick was only United’s second league goal this term. No other side in the top flight have scored fewer.
It’s not exactly the best form to be taking to Anfield on Saturday. Especially with equally daunting games with Manchester City and Chelsea following it.
Yet, maybe it’s not all quite as bad as it seems…
It could be the ideal time for Sheffield United to face Liverpool
Taking on a team that has just won the title with 99 points is never going to be easy. However, the Reds’ impressive form from the past two years has not been as obvious this time around.
They are still third in the table currently and 14 places and nine points ahead of the Blades. But there are also issues.
Perhaps the biggest talking point from a Merseyside derby on Saturday full of them was the injury of Virgil van Dijk.
Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford escaped punishment despite a horror challenge on Van Dijk. The Liverpool defender damaged his cruciate ligament and BBC Sport reports he will miss at least six months – and possibly the rest of the campaign.
Van Dijk is the talisman and a huge influence on Jurgen Klopp’s side. His absence will be greatly felt.
The issues Van Dijk being out presents at the back is only exacerbated by Alisson Becker also being injured.
The Liverpool Echo reports the goalkeeper is back in training and could return before the end of the month. But before the weekend? Doubtful.
The Reds had the best defensive record in the division when they won the title in 2019/20. It therefore goes some way to showing quite how unpredictable things have been this term by the fact that, after five games, they now have the worst.
Klopp’s men have conceded 13 goals already this season. Admittedly it’s weighted by a shock 7-2 defeat to Aston Villa. But they have also only kept one clean sheet.
It took Liverpool 14 league matches in 2019/20 to concede 13 times.
Righting things at the back will only be made harder by not having Van Dijk or Alisson available.