Things are looking bleak in the bid for Premier League survival for Sheffield United. Chris Wilder’s side are bottom of the table and 15 points from safety with just 12 games remaining.
While a great escape appears less likely each passing week, are the Blades able to pick up enough points from somewhere while their relegation rivals falter and achieve the impossible?
Where Sheffield United Can Pick up Points
Mammoth Task for the Blades
While Sheffield United have only won three Premier League games all season, it seems inconceivable to predict the Blades will pick up maximum points on many more occasions. Moreover, the divisions bottom club have only scored 15 times all season. Despite that, a win over Manchester United at Old Trafford has proved that anything is possible this season.
With 36 points still to play for, Chris Wilder’s side face seven sides currently in the bottom half of the table, with their other five games against opposition in the top half. Of the sides in the bottom half, the Blades face every team presently outside the relegation zone. Picking up points against sides that are at risk of going down themselves could be a requisite if they are to avoid the drop.
Back-to-Back Home Games
A home game against Aston Villa is next up for Sheffield United. The Blades may have lost their last four Premier League games but their most recent win came at Bramall Lane against West Brom. Villa have shown inconsistencies in recent weeks but are unbeaten in their last three away games. The last six meetings between the sides have yielded two wins each and two draws, while the last three have followed the same pattern. A point here could get things rolling.
The Blades then welcome a struggling Southampton side. The Saints recently ended a club-record six straight Premier League losses in a draw against Chelsea but followed up that point with defeats against Leeds United and Everton, extending their winless run to nine.
As a result, Southampton could be there for the taking, despite the Blades losing all three Premier League meetings against Ralph Hassenhüttl’s side.
Points Needed in Tough Run
Obviously, no games are easy, but the next five could define the season. First up is a trip to Leicester City. The Foxes are third in the Premier League and harbour hopes of Champions League football next season. Leicester face fellow strugglers Burnley and Brighton before the Blades so Wilder will be hoping for back-to-back wins for the Foxes before his side travel to the Midlands.
Sheffield United have lost their last five meetings against Leicester and follow that tough tie with an FA Cup clash against Chelsea. If the Blades happen to pick up some vital league points before the Chelsea game, the fixture could be a deterrent to any potential league form.
A home game against Arsenal comes in between trips to Leeds United and Wolves respectively. The three sides are 10th, 11th and 12 in the Premier League. Leeds won the reverse fixture against Sheffield United at Bramall Lane but have shown inconsistencies this season. It’s a similar story with Arsenal, but the Blades won this fixture last time out. Wolves beat Sheffield United earlier in the season but Wilder’s side picked up four points against their opponents last season.
Final Six Games Could Be Win or Bust
Sheffield United head into the final six league games knowing they could already be down. If they are still fighting, however, these could be favourable matches.
Brighton visit Bramall Lane in a huge six-pointer. The Seagulls themselves are only three points clear of the drop following their controversial defeat to West Brom at the weekend. The Blades are unbeaten in their previous three Premier League meetings against Brighton.
A tough trip to Tottenham follows. Sheffield United have beaten Spurs since their return to the Premier League and drew at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium last season.
Crystal Palace shouldn’t be in any real danger of relegation but Roy Hodgson’s side are only ten points clear of the drop. Sheffield United won both games against the Eagles last season and will be looking for the same outcome at Bramall Lane this time around.
Everton could be a tricky test. The Toffees have won the last two meetings between the sides but Sheffield United won this fixture last year. However, Everton are two places and seven points better off than they were at this stage last season.
The final two fixtures could be massive. Right now, Newcastle United and Burnley are 17th and 15th and just three and five points above the relegation zone respectively.
Newcastle have lost eight of their last 11 Premier League games and the Blades will be looking to secure the double over Steve Bruce’s side. It is similar for the Clarets. Sheffield United drew at Turf Moor last season but won their home fixture 3-0.
How Sheffield United Compare to Past Seasons
Norwich City suffered relegation last season, finishing bottom with just 21 points. However, the Blades are currently seven points worse off than the Canaries were at this stage last year.
The year before, Huddersfield Town sat bottom, also on 11 points. The Terriers ended the campaign with the third-worst points tally in Premier League history after finishing with just 16 points.
Recent seasons suggest that the mythical 40-point mark to secure safety has gone out of the window. Of the last six seasons, Aston Villa had to lowest points tally yet stayed up with 35 points last season. The highest number of points but still resulting in relegation came in 2015/16 when Newcastle went down on 37 points.
Sheffield United are in need of a miracle to stay up, there is no denying, but in a season of remarkably unexpected results, anything could still happen.