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Burnley-Sheffield United Preview
A match that figures to be neither for the meek nor fans of offence is slated for Bramall Lane on Saturday as promoted Sheffield United host Burnley.
The Blades (3-4-3) have been the surprise package of the Premier League thus far, entering this contest eighth on 13 points behind Manchester United on goal difference. They have shipped just eight goals - joint-lowest with table-toppers Liverpool and third-place Leicester City - while scoring only nine, better than only Newcastle United and bottom-dwellers Watford.
But the commitment to defence has been impressive by Chris Wilder's side, both home and away. Sheffield are unbeaten in five road matches, earning their fourth draw last weekend with a 1-1 split at West Ham United. Substitute Lys Mousset gave the Blades a share of the points with his 69th-minute equaliser, and Sheffield got the rub of the green when West Ham thumped the woodwork in the final quarter-hour.
"There's a lot more to come from me. I'm trying to work hard on my fitness and hopefully start more games," said Mousset, who has found a new Premier League home after playing for Bournemouth, to The Star. "I've been working hard with the team and the manager believes in me. It's hard to say when I'll be at 100 per cent but I'm working hard for the team and I'm very happy to be a part of this team."
This match holds special significance for Blades midfielder Oliver Norwood, who grew up in Burnley and a season-ticket holder for Burnley matches at Turf Moor. The Northern Ireland international has been a fixture in Wilder's first XI, starting all 10 league matches while logging all but 71 of 900 minutes.
"I used to sit in the Longside, down at the bottom in the James Hargreaves Stand," Norwood recalled at Thursday's press conference. "I was a little bit of a hooligan at school, I suppose we all were looking back. There are lads that I knocked about with at school who I still knock about with now.
"It was a group of friends who I used to go on with, we were all scallywags, hanging about street corners and that. We used to enjoy going on and giving the away fans a bit of stick from the bottom corner. That's why we used to go in there."
Burnley (3-3-4), who are one point and five places back of Sheffield United in 13th, are not as offensively challenged as the Blades with 14 goals, but the defence-first philosophy and being difficult to score on remains Sean Dyche's primary ethos.
The Clarets have not adhered well to that in the last two matches as the quality of competition ratcheted higher coming out of the international break, with a 2-1 loss at Leicester City followed by a 4-2 defeat at home to Chelsea in which the scoreline flattered Dyche's side to a degree as they were down four with five minutes to play before Jay Rodriguez and Dwight McNeil netted.
"It was an odd night in that I don't think there was too much in the game, especially in the first half," Dyche told Burnley's official website. "We've created some good chances, but we ended up 2-0 down when mistakes were punished. It's poor from us for giving the ball away in those positions, and credit to them for taking those chances, but you come in 2-0 down and scratching your head.
"Then we started the second half quite bright and took the game on again, but we gave away a third and then it's really tough. At four it certainly didn't feel like a 0-4 game, because we created some really good chances tonight and that's pleasing."
Robbie Brady, who assisted on both late goals, could be in line for his second start in three matches since returning from injury. He was also picked to Ireland's squad for their upcoming European crunch qualifier versus Denmark on Nov. 18 that will determine if they directly qualify for the 24-nation field or have to take a playoff route.
One player still yet to feature in league play for the Clarets is midfielder Danny Drinkwater, who has been dealing with a nagging ankle injury. Drinkwater, a vital component of Leicester City's stunning run to the Premier League title who failed to impact at Chelsea, has returned to training but still a way's off from match-fitness.
Striker Chris Wood is also a doubt with a strained hamstring that kept him out of the loss to Chelsea. The New Zealand international is tied with Ashley Barnes for the team lead with four goals.
This is the first Premier League match between the teams, with Burnley going unbeaten in their last five (4-1-0) Championship clashes. Rodriguez scored both home and away for the Clarets in their last meetings in the 2010-11 season as Burnley claimed four points.
Updated October 31, 2019