The Premier League’s intense race for European football continues on Thursday when Tottenham Hotspur travel to South Yorkshire to face Sheffield United.
Jose Mourinho‘s men are seventh and currently occupy a Europa League spot but may still have the Champions League on their mind, although the nine-point gap between them and fourth-placed Chelsea will be tough to overhaul.
Spurs are just one point ahead of Thursday’s opponents Sheffield United, who have been enjoying their return to the Premier League and remain with an outside chance of European football – potentially following in the footsteps of Wolverhampton Wanderers last season.
With things so tight between seventh and 12th, there is still a lot of excitement to come before the Premier League race is run.
Sheffield United vs Spurs kick-off time and details:
Competition: Premier League
Venue: Bramall Lane
Date: Thursday, 2 July 2020
Kick-off: 6:00PM (UK time)
Where to watch Sheffield United vs Spurs on TV:
UK: Sky Sports Main Event, Sky Sports Premier League
Sheffield United & Spurs’ previous line-ups:
- Sheffield United (vs Arsenal): Henderson; Basham, Robinson, Egan; Baldock, Fleck, Norwood, Lundstram*, Stevens; McGoldrick, McBurnie.
- Tottenham (vs West Ham United): Lloris; Aurier, Sanchez, Dier, Davies; Lo Celso, Sissoko; Lucas, Alli, Son; Kane.
John Lundstram is a doubt after picking up a shoulder injury against Arsenal, with the midfielder awaiting results from a scan.
What’s gone wrong with Sheffield United?
Prior to the Premier League’s suspension in March, it seemed inconceivable that Sheffield United would not be playing some form of European football next season. The Blades were eighth in the table but had a game in hand on those around them, against relegation battlers Aston Villa. A win would have seen them jump up to fifth, just two points behind fourth-placed Chelsea and in with a real chance of playing Champions League football.
But the prolonged break appears to have had a bigger effect on Sheffield United than most, with Chris Wilder‘s men gathering just one point from their three matches – getting a draw in their game in hand against Villa. Only West Ham, Norwich City and Bournemouth have won fewer points than Sheffield United since the restart, but the trio have only played two games to the Blades‘ three.
The biggest drop off from Sheffield United‘s form has been their defence, conceding seven goals in three games across all competitions – losing 3-0 to both Newcastle United and Manchester United before falling 2-1 to Arsenal in the FA Cup with a poor defensive performance late on. Including the goalless draw with Aston Villa – which should have been a win but for the failure of goal-line technology – the Blades had conceded five goals in their previous 10 games before the wheels started to come off.
Now, Sheffield United are ninth and falling further away from the Champions League places, currently eight points behind Wolverhampton Wanderers in fifth – which could secure elite European football if Manchester City’s ban is upheld. But Europa League football remains very much a possibility, with Wilder hoping to return to winning ways against Tottenham.
“I am just really looking for a positive performance that gives us an opportunity of getting a result and hopefully, we will do that,” he told reporters. “We keep shooting ourselves in the foot at the moment and it is not like us, we need to stop doing that.
“We can’t give teams the opportunities and head starts in games and expect to catch them up. We have to cut out those errors and really play at our maximum, which we are a little short of from my point of view.”
Does Eric Dier have a future at Spurs?
There have been many interesting stories at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium this season, including the sacking of Mauricio Pochettino and hiring of Mourinho. But one that has crept up in recent weeks is the future of Eric Dier.
The Englishman is out of contract next summer and has struggled for playing time in midfield, with the likes of Moussa Sissoko, Harry Winks and Tanguy Ndombele ahead of him in the pecking order. As a result, there have been doubts surrounding Dier’s future at the club, with the midfielder yet to sign a new deal.
Before the Premier League‘s suspension, however, Dier had found his way back into the team, this time as a centre-back in back three formations against Wolves and Burnley – chosen ahead of Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen for the former fixture. And, perhaps surprisingly, it’s a role Dier has continued post-break as part of a back-four system, partnering Davinson Sanchez in defence.
It hasn’t been perfect, with Dier conceding the penalty from which Bruno Fernandes scored for Manchester United in a 1-1 draw, but the Englishman has largely exceeded expectations at centre-back.
And he has also earned the praise of Mourinho, who said after the West Ham win: “Eric is playing really well and adapting very well to a position that he thinks, and personally I also think, is a great position for him.”
Could this be the way for Dier to keep himself at Tottenham and eventually sign a new deal?
Scoreline prediction: Sheffield United 0-2 Spurs
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Premier League 2019/20 recent form:
- Sheffield United: DWDLL
- Tottenham: LLDDW