Chris Wilder: Sheffield United need to start winning sooner rather than later to survive drop
Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder says his side must put a winning streak together sooner rather than later to keep their slim Premier League survival hopes alive.
The Blades have started to pick up points following a poor start to the season, winning six of their last nine matches in all competitions.
United are still 12 points adrift of safety ahead of Monday’s trip to West Ham, with 17th-placed Burnley in action against Crystal Palace on Saturday.
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“We cannot sugar-coat anything,” said Wilder. “We are heading into the final 15 matches and if we want to stay in this division we have got to win games of football, and we have to do that sooner rather than later.
“It is a crackers game we are involved in and we are in a season of unpredictability. Sometimes it is not all about the maths. That can go out the window.
“But we have to make sure we don’t leave it too late. We have to win games now, winning through February, through March and through April to give us an opportunity come May.”
The Blades could be boosted by the return from injury of right-back George Baldock for their trip to London.
Baldock has trained this week after he limped off in the win against West Brom earlier in the month. Wilder is also set to welcome back Enda Stevens following a calf problem.
Jones Knows prediction
Ah, West Ham, how you trouble me. Trying to predict match outcomes and results in the Premier League is a tough job at the best of times but West Ham make it an impossible one.
With Valentine’s Day upon us, my relationship with them must be what it’s like to be single and dabbling on dating apps – it’s been a while for this married man. It’s pure mind-games when it comes to the Hammers. One week, they flutter their eyes at me and rip through teams like Aston Villa and Crystal Palace with no problem. Do they want something long-term?
Then, they blank me. Putting in turgid displays like the one at Fulham last weekend where they looked a run of the mill mid-table team that are not capable of scoring many goals. I do not know where I stand.
My gut is telling me to take them on at 4/6 here with improving and now reliable Sheffield United at the door, who have won six of their last nine games in all competitions. But to save more heartache, I will play the draw.
One area of interest from a punting perspective revolves around Declan Rice’s chances of scoring. Despite playing every minute of every game this season for the Hammers, Rice has yet to find the net and you can tell it’s something that is bothering the West Ham skipper, who has admitted he wants to become a goalscoring midfielder. He’s good enough, too.
The England midfielder goes up for every set-piece, has had seven shots in his last seven Premier League games and there is an outside chance he just might be on penalties in the absence of Mark Noble and maybe Michail Antonio, although West Ham have yet to be awarded one this season. I think 28/1 underestimates his chances of opening the scoring here.
JONES KNOWS PREDICTS: 1-1
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