Paul Merson thinks that there is one specific reason why Sheffield United have the edge over their top four rivals in the Premier League.
Following Manchester United’s 2-0 win at fourth-placed Chelsea on Monday, there is now only three points between the two sides.
Sandwiched between them are Sheffield United and Tottenham Hotspur. After this weekend’s round of fixtures – depending on results – any one of them could replace the Blues in the top four.
Yet Merson believes the Blades have one thing that the other three do not.
“Sheffield United are massive players in the Champions League race,” the pundit wrote in his Sky Sports column.
“With Manchester United, you’re talking about one of the biggest clubs in the world not having a centre forward. They’re playing with Daniel James up front.
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“When you look at Chelsea, you’re not going to get into the top four with Michy Batshuayi up front. He’s not good enough.
“I give Sheffield United every chance as these teams aren’t dominant anymore. You’re talking about three of the biggest clubs in the league – Manchester United, Tottenham and Chelsea – and one injury means they’ve not got a centre forward.”
Top four rivals’ striker options compared to Sheffield United
Merson is correct in pointing out that the top scorers for all three sides are currently on the sidelines. Tammy Abraham missed the defeat to Man United on Monday due to an ankle problem.
Football.london reports that Abraham has been struggling with the issue the 2-2 draw with Arsenal on January 21 and has been receiving painkilling injections to get through games. He could return for this Saturday’s fixture with Spurs.
With Olivier Giroud seemingly out of favour under Frank Lampard, Batshuayi got the nod ahead of him.
As for Tottenham, they are without Harry Kane for the long-term as he has a hamstring injury. They have since lost Son Heung-min, who fractured his arm in Sunday’s 3-2 victory at Aston Villa.
It leaves them with Troy Parrott as the only natural striker in the squad. But Jose Mourinho says the 18-year-old is not ready, as reported by the Mirror. It could mean Dele Alli, Steven Bergwijn or Lucas Moura starting upfront at Stamford Bridge.
Finally, Goal reports Marcus Rashford is out for three months with a back injury sustained in January. In his absence, James and Anthony Martial played as strikers against Chelsea – with the latter scoring the opener.
Neither are natural number nines, though, with the only one on the books being loanee Odion Ighalo.
Meanwhile, the Blades have five first team forwards used on rotation by manager Chris Wilder. According to Merson, this will give them the edge in the Champions League race.