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Sheffield United-Watford Preview
Chris Wilder is not here for moral victories, nor simply survival for promoted Sheffield United.
He wants wins, and after a heartbreaking defeat to the European Champions, his Blades look to bounce back Saturday at Vicarage Road versus last-place Watford in a potential six-point relegation belter.
Sheffield United (2-2-3) are 12th in the table on eight points and look to have the most staying power of the three sides to move up from the Championship. The Blades have already claimed a crucial road point at Stamford Bridge against Chelsea and came thisclose to ending Liverpool's 100 percent record at Bramall Lane last Saturday.
But a horrible gaffe by keeper Dean Henderson on Giorginio Wijnaldum's 70th-minute volley allowed the European champions to escape with a 1-0 victory. While many were offering the Blades plaudits for confounding the Reds and limiting their high-powered offence, Wilder was not in the mood for receiving such compliments.
"I haven't. I told them it's a massive missed opportunity, and I believe that," the Blades boss told TALKSport post-match when asked if he consoled Henderson and his side. "We caught the champions of Europe on an off-day and our organisation and shape frustrated them. We were never going to go toe-to-toe with them, we were never going to open it up and make it a game of basketball, because we would have been murdered.
"Dean has not made a routine save. It cracks me up when ex-players say you shouldn't chuck your players under the bus, but it's difficult to hide when you're playing wordwide football in the Premier League that your goalkeeper should make a save."
Despite Henderson's mistake, Sheffield have been a stingy outfit with just seven goals shipped in seven matches, keeping the continuity at the back from their Championship side. The Blades have been surprisingly formidable in attack on the road, where they have registered five of their seven goals - coming from seven different goal-scorers.
Watford (0-2-5) are still the only Premier League club without a victory, and their minus-16 goal difference provides plenty of cause for concern in their task to climb out of the bottom three since Newcastle are second-worst at only minus-9.
The Hornets were unable to carry over the momentum from their Carabao Cup win over Championship side Swansea City, losing 2-0 at Wolverhampton last Saturday in a rematch of last year's enthralling FA Cup semifinals won by Watford.
While Quique Sanchez Flores' side did play far better than their 8-0 hiding administered by Manchester City the weekend prior, it was a fourth loss via shutout and a cruel one at that - Wolves scored on both their shots on target while Watford's five were all denied by Rui Patricio.
"We are no longer preparing matches; we are preparing finals," said Sánchez Flores, who has ramped up the urgency in training this week to snap Watford out of their doldrums. "It is like this, but I am really happy with the response of the players at the training ground.
"It is two different things, we are training with them and the tactics are one thing, the mental health is another thing. We need to prepare about the brain, prepare to train this muscle because it's the main muscle right now."
Flores, though, will still be without first-choice striker Troy Deeney as he continues to recover from knee surgery. One positive from last weekend's loss was Danny Welbeck getting his first league start in nearly a full calendar year after suffering a broken ankle with Arsenal last term.
Welbeck opened his Watford account with a goal in the win over Swansea City and will be trying to ignite an offence that is joint-worst with Newcastle on four goals.
The sides have not met since the Hornets did the double in the Championship in 2010-11, and Watford have won the last three clashes between the sides. Sheffield United have gone 297 minuites without a goal versus the Hornets since Ched Evans capped the scoring in a 2-0 Blades victory in 2009.
Updated October 3, 2019