Our Match of the Week, at least according to our weekly Power Rankings features our top club Sheffield United hosting the Queens Park Rangers, the 5th-ranked club in those power rankings. This isn’t the only match featuring clubs from the top half of the table, as Leeds United and Derby County start this weekend off with Friday Night Football, and West Bromwich Albion will be hosting Norwich City in another highly-anticipated match between clubs fighting for promotion.
The Blades returned to the top of our rankings despite being third in the league table, but a rough couple of weeks from the clubs above them helped propel them back to the top. The same could be said of QPR, who has had a stronger run of play recently than some of the other clubs in the top ten of the league table.
Let’s take a closer look at the matchup from Bramall Lane:
As mentioned, Sheffield United is third in the Championship with a 14-5-7 record (47 points), placing them two points behind Norwich City for the second automatic promotion spot. They are in the middle of a brief four match unbeaten streak (3-1-0), which includes win in their last three matches. In those three victories, they’ve scored a total of nine goals, helping to move them into fourth in the Championship with 45 goals.
QPR is the only club in the top ten that has negative goal differential, which is most likely a direct result to the four game losing streak that opened the season when they were outscored 13-2 (they’ve since outscored opponents 31-22). They have a record of 11-6-9 (39 points) on the season, placing them 9th in the league table and four points out of playoff qualification. They’ve climbed up our Power Rankings due to a recent 3-2-0 stretch, though without all the scoring experienced by this week’s opponent.
The Previous Match-Up
Like our other previewed match, the first match between these clubs took place on 11 August 2018, and was part of that poor opening stretch for QPR. The Blades won that match 2-1 at Loftus Road, so they have to hopeful for the results in this one now that they are the home club.
QPR opened the scoring in the August match, with Ebere Eze scoring first in the 29th minute to give QPR an early lead. But just before halftime, the Blades equalized, with Billy Sharp finding the back of the net to knot the clubs at 1-1 just before halftime.
After the break, Sheffield United completed the comback, with sub David McGoldrick converting an awarded penalty kick in the 65th minute just moments after entering play. The Blades were then able to hold on, sending QPR back to the dressing room with their second straight loss to open the season.
Home and Away Results
As previously mentioned, Bramall Lane plays host to this match, and the venerable old pitch has served the Blades well this season – though their home/away splits are almost exact. They gone 7-3-3 at home this season, scoring 23 goals (1.77 per match) while surrendering only 13 (1.00 per match).
On the other sideline, the visitors have struggled a bit on the road with a 4-4-5 record. They also have a horrible goal differential on the road (-7), but six goals of that differential is from their 7-1 loss at West Brom on Matchday 3. They have a 1-3-1 record in their last five matches away from Loftus Road, so they are probably wishing that Sheffield United hosted the first matchup this season.
Scorers and Defense, Oh My!
The two players that scored for the Blades the first time these clubs met also lead the team in scoring. Billy Sharp leads the club – and is tied for the Championship lead – with 16 goals on the season (as well as an assist). Teammate David McGoldrick has scored nine goals of his own (and assisted on three others), combining for 25 of the 45 goals the Blades have scored on the season.
Stopping the goals for the Blades all season has been Dean Henderson, who has notched eight cleansheets on the season, and has not surrendered more than two goals in a match since Matchday 2. Trying to penetrate his solid play in net will be forward Nahki Wells and midfielder Luke Freeman, sho share the team lead with six goals across all competitions (Freeman has scored five of his goals in league play). QPR has to hope that keeper Joe Lumley can add to his clean sheet total of 10 on the season with those Sheffield Wednesday attackers bearing down on him all day.
How I See It
I typically lean towards the stronger defensive club, especially between the posts, and Lumley has been pretty stellar after that season-opening stretch. But sometimes having the home pitch and the league’s leading scorer is just too much, and I think the Blades will overcome the jinx that comes with being our top club lately.
My prediction: Sheffield United 2 – 1 Queens Park Rangers
Actual Score: Sheffield United 1 – 0 Queens Park Rangers
Until next time…