Brighton & Hove Albion-Sheffield United Preview
Earning a Champions League berth next season is hardly a stretch for upstart Sheffield United to accomplish during a memorable return to the Premier League.
With that goal in mind, the Blades eye a third consecutive top-flight victory Saturday against a visiting Brighton & Hove Albion side that is still searching for their first victory of 2020.
Back in the top-flight of English football for the first time since 2006-07, Sheffield United (10-9-7) have more than held their own. The Blades currently sit sixth in the table - just one point behind fifth-place Tottenham Hotspur and two back of Chelsea, who are fourth entering this match-day.
Thus, a European spot - specifically the Champions League - is well within reach for the hungry Blades, who won't deny that feat is on their collective mind.
"Yeah, it's definitely an opportunity," midfielder Ollie Norwood told United's official website. "We've put ourselves in a great position and it'd be silly to say we as a squad haven't spoke about it. We've dreamed of it and thought, 'Can we be that team that gets in there?'"
The way they've played this season certainly gives them confidence to achieve that. Following a 1-2-3 record throughout the festive period and shortly after, United have won their last two matches at Crystal Palace and in dramatic fashion over Bournemouth at home on Feb. 9.
In the latter, Billy Sharp leveled the match at 1-1 late in the first half and John Lundstram (four league goals) delivered the go-ahead score in the 84th minute to give the hosts a 2-1 victory.
Sheffield now look to match their season-high three-game Premier League winning streak that concluded with a 1-0 victory at Brighton on Dec. 21. A goal from Oliver McBurnie (four goals) in the 23rd minute was all the Blades needed to prevail.
Though United should feel confident they can do the double considering Brighton (6-9-11) are 15th in the table and 0-4-2 since beating Bournemouth on Dec. 28, Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder does not want his club, or their supporters, thinking this fixture will be a romp through the park.
"Brighton are an extremely tough opposition," Wilder, who could very well be offering some token coach-speak, said. "They're a well-drilled, established side. It'll be as tough as it gets."
The Seagulls have drawn each of their last two league matches, 3-3 at West Ham United on Feb. 1 and 1-1 with Watford on Feb. 8. They've won just twice on the road this season, and not since stunning Arsenal at the Emirates on Dec. 5.
Adrian Mariappa's own goal in the 78th minute leveled the match with Watford and helped Brighton earn a point.
"It is not easy if you are 1-0 or 2-0 down at half-time in the Premier League, but you can still react," forward Leandro Trossard told Brighton's official website. "We maybe could have beaten (Watford), but it's something we have to keep in mind heading into the next game."
Brighton's Neal Maupay has a team-leading seven Premier League goals, but none in his last eight contests.
Updated February 20, 2020