James CookeChelsea vs. Sheffield United, Saturday August 31st, 15:00, Stamford Bridge. Frank Lampard got his first win as Chelsea manager in a thriller against Norwich, and now welcomes Premier League new-boys Sheffield United to the capital.
It took a few weeks longer than he would have liked, but Lampard enjoyed his first taste of victory on the Blues’ bench after splitting five goals against Norwich. If that’s not quite vindication for his appointment – and it wasn’t, as one win doesn’t make a season – it was at least a statement by the young players he’s been asked to feature, particularly Tammy Abraham and Mason Mount.
The feeling for years has been that Chelsea have had a raft of talented young players waiting for their chance in the first team. Coach after coach has come and gone and barely given any of them an opportunity. Now, with a transfer embargo at work, Lampard is selecting Abraham, Mount and a handful of others on a regular basis. Whether or not it’s enough to challenge for a Champions League place this season remains to be seen, but it should stand Chelsea in good stead for the future.
Abraham’s two goals against Norwich were very different, but each remarkable in their own way. The first time shot at a difficult angle for the first, and the long range drive after taking on two defenders for the second, spoke to the potential of the 21-year-old. Mount, meanwhile, has caught the eye in every appearance, and should shake off a knock to face the Blades.
Sheffield United, meanwhile, suffered a home defeat to Leicester in their last outing and possibly a portent of things to come. Their expansive style – overlapping centre-backs! – deserves praise and manager Chris Wilder deservers plaudits for first having the creativity to think of it, and then the ability to make it work to a degree that his team were promoted. But when it breaks down, as it did against the Foxes, players with the pace of Jamie Vardy – or Chelsea’s Abraham – will make the most of it.
Wilder has to decide whether he sticks with what worked last season, or goes more pragmatic. Neither is guaranteed to keep United in the top flight, and he might prefer to go down fighting, sticking to his team’s principles, then any other way. But having so far played Bournemouth, Crystal Palace and Leicester, Chelsea, even slipped from their brilliant best of a few years ago, are another proposition entirely.
There are still issues for Lampard to address – his team hasn’t kept a clean sheet yet – and the Yorkshire club have enough about them to at least get a goal. But Chelsea should get a couple more, to win 3-1.
Chelsea haven’t kept a clean sheet, and Sheffield United have scored in all three games this season. That’s the kind of record the best betting sites would say points to goals, but Chelsea should get the lion’s share of them. They’re 41/20 at 888Sport to win in a game were both teams score.
He’s been given the No. 9 shirt for this season, and the early evidence suggests Abraham should keep it for a long time. Olivier Giroud is waiting in the wings but Lampard’s faith in the younger forward is paying off and Chelsea should create enough chances for Abraham – capable of scoring all different types of goals – to get a couple. He’s 22/5 at 888Sport to score at least two.
Head to Head
Chelsea and Sheffield United haven’t met since 2007, when the latter were relegated from the top flight.
They were beaten 3-0 at the Bridge in March that year – Andriy Shevchenko, Salomon Kalou and Michael Ballack on the score sheet – and 2-0 at Brammall Lane in the October before. Lampard was on target then, as was Ballack.
United haven’t beaten Chelsea since November 1993, and not at the Bridge since 1992.
Only Manchester City have had more shots this season than Chelsea – 63 to 55. Sheffield United have registered 31.
Chelsea have put in the most tackles of any top flight team – 72. United have made 50.
No team has played more long balls than United’s 227.
Mount has had the joint-second highest number of shots this season – 12, bettered only by Ashley Barnes, and level with the likes of Roberto Firminho and Raheem Sterling.
Aspiring football journalist who realised he could put his vast knowledge towards gambling and making some money. With years spent on Football Manager, his boyhood obsession has carried over into his adult life and he's proven his mum that all that time spent playing a game wasn't to be wasted. A European football expert, James writes about anything on the continent and has began expanding his knowledge to other leagues in South America, Asia and the USA.