Sunday’s Premier League encounter between Sheffield United and Manchester City at Bramall Lane is a textbook definition of a ‘David vs Goliath’ clash.
After two years in the Championship, the Blades are back in the top flight, but they may not stay for long unless they turn their fortunes around quickly following a dreadful start.
Crystal Palace ran out 1-0 winners on the opening day, yet it could’ve been worse for Paul Heckingbottom’s side, considering they faced 24 shots in their first Premier League outing at Bramall Lane since 2021.
Despite providing a breakthrough on his debut, marquee summer arrival Gustavo Hamer only postponed the inevitable as the Blades slumped to a 2-1 defeat at Nottingham Forest last week.
Based on their underwhelming top-flight start, our assessment of their minimal chances of survival in our Sheffield United season preview seems spot on.
Putting the visiting Cityzens in front of the other Premier League title candidates in our Man City season predictions also looks like a wise choice despite several early setbacks.
Kevin De Bruyne’s nasty hamstring injury that threatens to keep him on the sidelines until 2024 doesn’t bode well, but Pep Guardiola’s side have looked unfazed by losing their standout playmaker.
Following a thumping 3-0 win at newly-promoted Burnley on the opening weekend, Man City squeezed past Newcastle United 1-0 last weekend, courtesy of Julian Alvarez’s sublime finish in the first half.
Another clash against the Premier League newcomers should be a routine assignment for the perennial champions, even though Guardiola won’t be by the touchline to guide his team.
The Spaniard is recovering from a minor back surgery and will be absent from tomorrow’s trip to Bramall Lane and the upcoming home game against Fulham.
United’s notoriously slow starts have seen them draw a blank in the first half of both opening Premier League fixtures, forcing themselves to play catch-up later on.
Given the stature of their forthcoming opposition, another poor first-half showing would probably set the tone for the extension of their woeful league streak against Man City.
Since a 1-0 home win in 2000 when the two sides were still in the Championship, the Blades have gone winless in eight consecutive league meetings with the Cityzens (D2, L6).
During their fateful 2020/21 Premier League campaign, they lost both league encounters against City by an identical 1-0 scoreline, which forms part of their five-match scoring drought against Guardiola’s side.
Man City solidified their formidable form against the Blades with a scintillating 3-0 triumph in last season’s FA Cup semi-finals as new Al-Ahli forward Riyad Mahrez bagged a hat-trick at Wembley Stadium.
While Guardiola can no longer call upon the Algerian winger, Erling Braut Haaland is always a reliable option in the front third, as evidenced by his match-winning brace against Burnley on day one.
The Spaniard’s assistant, Juanma Lillo, will be in charge at Bramall Lane, hoping to reinvigorate the Cityzens’ indifferent three-match league form on the road (W1, D1, L1).
He can take confidence from Man City’s three-game winning away league run against United, although a 1-0 scoreline in those three wins suggests the visitors may have to sweat for all three points.
Despite being forced off with minor fitness problems against Forest, Max Lowe, Vinicius Souza and Benie Traore should be available for selection.
However, Heckingbottom will be without John Fleck, Rhian Brewster, Ismaila Coulibaly and Rhys Norrington-Davies.
Oli McBurnie, Daniel Jebbison, Jayden Bogle and Anis Ben Slimane are doubtful.
As for Man City, De Bruyne is not alone in the treatment room, with John Stones still dealing with a muscle injury.
But other than the two first-team superstars, the visitors will have the remainder of their star-studded squad fit for this travel.
Sheffield United potential starting line-up:
(3-4-2-1): Wes Foderingham; Jack Robinson, John Egan, Anel Ahmedhodzic; George Baldock, Oliver Norwood, Vinicius Souza, Yasser Larouci; Gustavo Hamer, Benie Traore; William Osula.
Manchester City potential starting line-up:
(4-2-3-1): Ederson; Kyle Walker, Manuel Akanji, Ruben Dias, Josko Gvardiol; Rodri, Mateo Kovacic; Bernardo Silva, Julian Alvarez, Phil Foden; Erling Haaland.
We Say: Sheffield United 0-2 Manchester City
Even without Guardiola in the dugout, Man City should maintain a 100% start to their Premier League title defence and register another clean sheet.
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