Leon Clarke is still suspended because of his altercation with Barnsley defender Angus MacDonald during their game in mid-August. Ched Evans is also a doubt, and United manager Chris Wilder gave an update this week on the striker’s status:
He's at about 75 per cent to 80 per cent. I thought he made a great impact against Derby for us and the same at Middlesbrough. But there's just something holding him back a little bit. It's not major, it's not season ending, it's just trying to get Ched back to 100 per cent.
The story so far
Sheffield United have won all three of their home games in the league so far - and Bramall Lane looks like it could well be a fortress for our opponents this season. Away from Sheffield, though, the Blades have yet to score a goal and have lost 1-0 to ‘Boro and 2-0 to Cardiff. United sit 5th in the Championship with 9 points and a +1 goal difference - solid start for the newly promoted side.
Last time out
The Blades grabbed three vital points in their last outing against Derby, taking a 3-1 victory over the promotion hopefuls. The game itself saw Billy Sharp bag two goals where the keeper had vacated the goal - the first being a huge Scott Carson error, the second being an open net break-away after Carson had went up for a corner while Derby were chasing an equaliser. United’s other goal was a Johnny Russell own goal, while Craig Bryson grabbed a consolation for the away side.
On the face of things, maybe they were lucky to grab a win against Derby - but Rams manager Gary Rowett had remarked that United had worked far harder than his team, and earned their luck.
We all know who the dangerman will be on Saturday - Billy Sharp. The Yorkshire-born poacher has 4 goals in 5 games this season, and has consistently banged in goals wherever he has played. Sharp is an all round forward, who can score the tap ins, but also scored lovely goals too. A predatory striker at this level, Sunderland will need to make sure they limit the service provided to the former Leeds United striker.
30 goals last season in Sheffield United’s promotion campaign shows how capable a finisher he is, but he has never fully proven himself at the Championship level. Sharp will be hoping that this season will prove he is more than good enough for this level.
Referee - Jeremy Simpson
Jeremy Simpson has refereed one previous game involving Sunderland - our 1-0 win over Shrewsbury last season in the League Cup. I was at that game and cant remember much about it! Januzaj scored though, a beauty apparently.
Simpson has taken charge of three Sheffield United games, and they have won all three of them.
In his 59 Championship games refereed to date he has given 216 yellow cards, 7 red cards and 13 penalties.
Manager - Chris Wilder
Sheffield United fan Chris Wilder has now fulfilled his dream of playing and managing his boyhood club. His management career to this point has been a story of successes.
He began at Alfreton Town before moving to Halifax Town in 2002. His six year stay at Halifax was ended when the club went into liquidation, and he decided to move to Bury as assistant manager. In 2008 he took over Conference side Oxford United - where he guided them back to the Football League. After 6 years at Oxford, a change was needed for both parties, and Northampton was where Wilder would really make a name for himself. He guided the club to a 99 point season - and the League Two title, before leaving to join Sheffield United at the end of the season.
Since moving to United, Wilder has went from strength to strength. Initially there were calls to sack the Yorkshireman after a very poor start to the season - but Wilder turned it round and oversaw a very impressive promotion campaign. 100 points were gained, and United boasted the best offensive record in the league - bagging over 90 goals. 30 wins, 10 draws and 6 defeats is a mightily impressive record.
So what can we expect from Sheffield United this weekend?
I have seen a couple of United games this season, and my own observations are that they are a very hard working side that will battle to the very end for points. United may lack quality across the field, but I like how defensively strong they are and that they have a work ethic that is probably unmatched in this division.
It looks as though United will look to sit in deep against Sunderland and hit us on the counter as soon as possible. This style will be good against Sunderland - who have suffered to counter attacks in their previous two home games this season.
Our full backs will be in for a tricky game, as United seem to priortise the wings as their mode of attack. Their usual 3-5-2 formation allows them to push their wing backs forward, and with players like John Fleck and Paul Coutts they have that little bit of quality in midfield to find those wide players.
United have done a great job of protecting their leads when they go in front - the team managed to hold onto crucial singular goal leads in all of their three home games, even managing a last minute sealer goal against Derby prior to the international break.
Predicted line up
I suspect our opponents will line up as they did for their previous game against Derby, as most of the United team were not on international duty during the week.
Heading into the weekend’s game Sunderland are priced as favourites - surprising for a team yet to win a home game since Donald Trump was Inaugurated as President. Dafabet put Sunderland at 6/4 and United are priced at 9/4 to leave Wearside with three points. My tip though is for Sunderland to win to nil - priced at 12/5 with Dafabet - a smart bet because United have yet to score a goal on their travels.