Sheffield United vs Chelsea: Four things to Checkout for in blues trip to Bramall Lane

Sheffield United vs Chelsea: Four things to Checkout for in blues trip to Bramall Lane

As the race for the champions league spot continues between manchester united and Leicester city Chelsea will be travelling to Bramall Lane for one of the easier remaining matches, but it’s far from it. Here are some things to look for at Sheffield United:

In a three-horse race for the top four finish, Chelsea faces a difficult final leg of fixtures. Liverpool and Wolves present obstacles of their own, but Sheffield United’s return to form makes the Blades potentially the trickiest team to face.

After a terrible start to the Premier League restart, Sheffield seems to have found its mojo back in the last three games, as most teams seem to do when the Chelsea game is around the corner. With every game being a must-win to play in the Champions League next season, some fascinating narratives surround the game on Saturday that should be looked out for:

1. Defending set-pieces
Chelsea’s inability to defend set-pieces is an old and tired tale, but the importance of it in this game cannot be understated. Sheffield is a well-drilled team and seems to have spent a lot of time perfecting set-piece routines.

The Blades’ game plan against the Blues could mirror their last game—the match against Wolves—where they look to score from a set-piece and set up shop soon after. They know what it takes to protect a lead and will be prepared to frustrate the Chelsea with their five-at-the-back formation.

Therefore, it is imperative that Chelsea does not give any cheap corners or concede from them either. The team looked a lot better with Kurt Zouma at the helm—his Stoke City days seem to have taught him the art of defending set-pieces—against Palace, but the opposition didn’t try to exploit set-pieces. The Blades will most certainly do that and the Zouma-led defence will have a huge task on their hands.

If the 5-foot-10 Cesar Azpilicueta turns out to be marking a 6-foot-5 Sander Berge while 6-foot-3 Abraham is assigned to the near post, Chelsea will be in for another shambolic day.

2. Balancing the backline
The match against Palace was a game of two sides for the Chelsea defence. The left side of the defence, consisting of Zouma and Azpilicueta, completely stifled out Palace’s attack, even forcing Wilfried Zaha to change his position.

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The right side of the defence nearly gave the game away though. Reece James and Andreas Christensen are two defenders prone to lapses in concentration, so it was no secret that pairing them together was the recipe for disaster. James’ cheap give away led to Palace’s first goal; while Christensen seemed to just freeze as Patrick Van Aanholt breezed past him to set up the second for the Eagles.

The duo’s positioning and casual attitude nearly led to Palace equalizing, only to be denied by a heroic tackle by Zouma, who covered for their errors. Simply put, the two should not be playing on the same side together as the lax attitude they display makes it a double whammy from the right for Chelsea.

Frank Lampard must either drop one of them—or both—or shift Zouma to the right to cover for James’ errors. While putting your best defenders to one side certainly shuts down one flank, it leaves the other flank open to danger, something Lampard must rectify before it costs him.

3. Ruben’s resurgence
It was a long road to recovery for Ruben Loftus-Cheek, so it was no surprise that the announcement of his return to the line-up against Aston Villa got everyone excited. Further, it was even less surprising that a player who had not played a competitive game for more than a year looked rusty and out of place in the game. The fact that he was played out of position only made things harder, as the Englishman struggled throughout the game.

Loftus-Cheek also looked cautious in his approach to the game, rarely looking to contest duels or stretch out to win 50-50 balls. All of it was understandable for a player who has lost most of his career thus far to injuries. Lampard quickly took notice.

Following the Villa game, Lampard restricted all of Loftus-Cheek’s appearances to that of a substitute, to ease the player back to full fitness and get him back to firing on all cylinders. It worked.

As Lampard began to deploy him as a central midfielder again, Loftus-Cheek looked sharper each time he took to field. Against Watford, he finally seemed in sync with his teammates as he nearly added another goal from James’ cross. While he misjudged the flight of the ball slightly, he timed his run to perfection, a trait that had him looking so dangerous last season.

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Against Palace, Loftus-Cheek covered a lot more ground and performed his duties as a box-to-box midfielder more comfortably. He began to add some end product to his game as well, as he assisted Abraham on the winning goal.

While it may be too late for Loftus-Cheek to make a lasting impact on the 2019/20 season, with clever management of his minutes, Lampard could get a fully fit and in-form Loftus-Cheek for the start of the 2020/21 season. Ruben’s resurgence has already begun.

4. Jorginho’s lifeline
Until the game against Watford, the possibility of Jorginho not touching the ball ever again for Chelsea seemed quite real. With N’Golo Kante and Billy Gilmour rotating for the defensive midfield spot and the Italian not even being utilised as a substitute, his Chelsea days seemed to be over.

Injuries to Mateo Kovacic, Kante and now Gilmour though seem to have given Jorginho a mini-lifeline. The fact that Jorginho requires the absence of three players to be given any minutes whatsoever, not to mention the noise around a certain German hotshot being linked to Chelsea, would point towards his fate being sealed. But, the minutes he receives from now to the end of the season could be vital for his future endeavours.

Before Kante’s injury, Jorginho faced the grim prospect of going seven months without playing a minute of football. So, even if somebody like Maurizio Sarri wanted to bring Jorginho back to Italy, his absence from football for more than half-a-year would attach a sizable risk to his transfer while Chelsea would be sure to charge a considerable fee.

With the situation he is in right now, Jorginho has the opportunity to seal a transfer to an elite club like Juventus, while also helping the club raise his value during negotiations. While he is certainly playing to secure his future, Jorginho could yet be useful to the club.

The Italian did well in the closing stages of the Palace game, moving the ball around well with his precise passing and brining an overall degree of composure to the team. If he can continue to do so for last few vital games of the season, Jorginho could ride off into the metaphorical sunset representing his Chelsea career with a feeling of satisfaction.
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