This week’s tough grueling stretch of matches comes to an end on Saturday for Stoke City as they welcome Sheffield United into Bet365 Stadium. Sunday’s home match against The Blades will mark the team’s third game in less than a week. It’ll also be the team’s third match in less than a week in which they take on a top-ten-table club, with Sheffield United sitting atop the table going into the weekend.
So far this week The Potters have taken only one point from their possible six points against Watford and Burnley. However, that one point did come in the team’s last match against Burnley on the road. Which was a very hard-fought, deserved point.
Stoke City will be hoping to grab more points on Saturday against Sheffield United as the team sits at 20th on the table with 13 points. Just as importantly, The Potters will be hoping for a better stretch of results at home moving forward. Stoke City up to this point of the season have only taken five points from the five home matches they’ve played.
Again, Saturday’s next test at home won’t be easy for The Potters. Sheffield United sit at first on the table with 24 points. The Blades have also been in good form on the road as they have taken 11 total points this season, while only conceding 4 goals on the road.
How will Stoke City line up against Sheffield United?
Stoke City Predicted Formation:
Manager Alex Neil made some slight, but very effective alterations to his formation against Burnley. Those alterations were a big key for Stoke City to help defend against a high-possession attack like Burnley’s.
Sheffield United however, are not as high of a possession-based team. The Blades still rank 6th in the Championship with 53% possession on average. But it’s not the 66.3% Stoke City just saw with Burnley.
Additionally, Sheffield United are on the road in this match. So possession should be something Stoke City expect to have more of on Saturday at Bet365 Stadium – Which is why Stoke City probably go back to more of a traditional 3-5-2 in possession and a 5-3-2 out of possession.
It wouldn’t be all that surprising to see some variation of a 3-5-2 as well if Neil chooses to go out with a 3-1-4-2 or even a 3-4-1-2 formation.
Starting XI Prediction:
Bursik – Fosu – Wilmot – Flint – Fox – Sterling – Baker – Smallbone – Laurent – Gayle – Campbell
If midfielder Jordan Thompson clears concussion protocols, he’ll take over for Josh Laurent in midfield. But Thompson could once again be in doubt. As for the rest of the team’s starting XI, Tyrese Campbell continues to be a spark and deserves to start again.
If he does start, it might come at the expense of Liam Delap or Dwight Gayle. Though, we’ll say that Gayle gets the nod over Delap in this match. The young Manchester City loanee, Delap, has started almost every match and could use a breather.
Finally, at center-back, Aden Flint sat on the bench for Burnley’s midweek draw. Flint had a very rough game against Watford and that’s what could have led him to seeing the bench last match. It’s always tough to make defensive changes after playing well, but overall Flint’s size is something Stoke City will need moving forward.
What Stoke City Has in Their Favor
Stoke City have two factors in their favor going into Saturday’s match. One, The Blades are very banged up right now. Two, Stoke City actually have the slightly better momentum currently.
As for the first point above, The Blades will reportedly be without Sander Berge and George Baldock on Saturday who picked up injuries this week, per YorkshireLive. The news outlet is also reporting that Anel Ahmedhodzic could be held out as well due to caution with an injury.
Then to the momentum advantage – Sheffield United, while not on a terrible run of results, did lose midweek to QPR. So, one would think that even a draw gives Stoke City a little more momentum.
Had it not been for terrible home results this season so far, you could even throw in a home advantage for Stoke City against Sheffield United. But again, Stoke City haven’t played well at home this season thus far.
Still, playing at home should give Stoke City a better chance at possession against top-table Sheffield United than, say, a road match. Meaning, Stoke City should have a chance to be on their front foot on Saturday offensively. Even if it’s just around 50% possession.
That’s why Saturday’s match presents a golden opportunity for Stoke City – an opportunity for Stoke City to:
- Take on an injury-riddled team
- Take points from a club that normally would be even heavier favorites.
Prediction for Stoke City vs. Sheffield United:
No match is ever going to be easy, especially when you’re facing one of the top three teams in the Championship. That includes Saturday’s match that will have its own challenges for Alex Neil and The Potters.
Stoke City will have to continue to defend the spaces out wide and clear their lines effectively. This is especially true when they are tested inside the 18-yard box with crosses, as Sheffield United rank third in the league in crosses attempted per game. Along with all of those crosses, Sheffield United has scored five set piece goals so far this season, which is tied for second in the league.
If Stoke City can do well in those areas defensively, and work to move the ball quicker through their midfield and out wide to the team’s wing-backs, Stoke City should be able to grab at least a point. Maybe even take all three points.
Final Prediction: Stoke City grab at least another point. Stoke City draw 1-1 or win 2-1.