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Saturday, July 4, 2020

Burnley v Sheffield United: In-form Burnley to edge out Blades

Burnley v Sheffield United: In-form Burnley to edge out Blades

Separated by just two points in the Premier league, Burnley and Sheffield United meet at Turf Moor at lunchtime on Sunday. Steve Rawlings previews the live match here...

Burnley v Sheffield United
Sunday July 5, 12:00
Live on Sky Sports

Buoyant Burnley keep on surprising

Sean Dyche's Burnley have been quietly going about their business for some time now, largely playing well throughout 2020, both before and after the break, and if the Premier League table was based on the last ten matches alone, the Clarets would sit third, behind the Champions, Liverpool, and bang-in-form Wolves.
Manchester City handed out a 5-0 drubbing to Burnley at the Etihad in their first game back but that's their only defeat in their last ten in the Premier League and they haven't been beaten at Turf Moor since Aston Villa 's surprise 2-1 victory on New Year's Day. Since the defeat to City, despite contractual issues surrounding five players and a fairly extensive injury-list, Burnley have beaten Watford at home 1-0 and Crystal Palace away by the same score.
The Clarets are unbeaten in their last five at home (W3 D2), keeping a clean sheet in three of the five and Liverpool are the only team to keep more than Burnley's eight clean sheets at home this season. That's their highest number of clean sheets in a top-flight campaign since the 1954-55 season.

Slow starting Blades starting to look sharper

The teams right at the bottom of the table have really struggled since the restart but Sheffield United's slow start has been fairly acute too. They were very unfortunate to have a perfectly good goal chalked off at home to Aston Villa in their first game back, thanks to goal line technology completely failing, and that ended 0-0, but they were toothless in their next couple of Premier League matches, going down 3-0 away to both Newcastle and Manchester United.
As an illustration of the disparity of the Blades pre and post break form, those two away defeats saw their season's away loss tally double and it's worth highlighting the two earlier defeats were at Anfield and the Etihad, to this season's champions, Liverpool, and the defending champions, Manchester City. The Blades were unbeaten in their first nine Premier League games on the road.
Chris Wilder's men were arguably slightly unfortunate to get knocked out of the F.A Cup last weekend, losing 2-1 at home to Arsenal, courtesy of an injury time strike by Dani Ceballos, and their form improved again on Thursday evening when they comfortably beat Spurs 3-1 at Bramwell Lane.
I'm not convinced we can get too carried away with that result though. Tottenham have won just one of their last nine in all competitions and that sole success was at home to a woefully out-of-form West Ham.

Is the Premier League reverting back to the norm?

After Burnley had beaten Palace 1-0 on Monday night, we had an interesting set of statistics to peruse.
In the 25 post-lockdown Premier League games, an average of 2.2 goals per game were scored, compared to the pre-lockdown average of 2.7. The shots per game average was down too, from 25.2 to 21.6 and plenty of matches have been starting slowly with as many as 15 of the first 25 matches being 0-0 at half time, but it's been all change since Tuesday.
In the seven Premier League games played since Burnley's win at Selhurst Park, we've seen as many as 28 goals scored (an average of exactly 4 per game) and none of the seven games have been 0-0 at half time. It's almost as if there's been a collective freedom found and the slow starts have been consigned to the bin. It could, of course, be just a statistical blip but it's certainly altered my thinking and it's something to keep an eye on.

Stats point to a low scoring affair

Despite the very recent surge in Premier League goals, it's hard to envisage this one being a goal-fest. Both teams tend to keep things tight and it's no surprise to see Under in the Over/Under 2.5 Goals market trading at around 1.50. Burnley have averaged only 1.31 goals at home this season and they've conceded an average of only 1.19 goals per game at home, whereas the Blades have only conceded an average of 1.13 away from home and they've only scored an average of 0.81 goals per game on the road.
Even taking into account the last seven matches, we still have 15 of 32 Premier League games since the restart being 0-0 at the break so given these are two low scoring sides, an argument can certainly be made about taking around 6/4 about a half time stalemate in the Half Time Score market but I'm going to keep things extremely simple and have a small bet on the hosts in the outright market.

Burnley backed to edge tight encounter

Both teams have injury concerns and this is a really tricky match to sort out. The draw is currently 3.10 on the exchange and no bigger than 2/1 on the High Street and the general census amongst the bookmaking fraternity and the exchange traders is that the visitors are only fractionally more likely to take the spoils than the hosts.
With Manchester United and Wolves on 52 points in fifth and sixth, a win for the Blades (currently on 47 points) would see them remain in seventh place, regardless of what Arsenal and Spurs do below them and it would leave Burnley (currently 10th) trailing them by five points, whereas a win for the home side would see them nudge past the visitors and of the three possible outcomes, that's the one I favour.
Sheffield United comfortably beat Tottenham on Thursday night but I just wonder how strong that form is. Spurs have been pretty ropey for a while and the Blades have been largely disappointing since the restart. In contrast, the City thrashing apart, it's very hard to crab Burnley and the two extra days rest could well have a bearing too. In what's a really hard one to call, preference is for the in-form hosts and 3.05 is fair enough.