The Blades at home then tonight for the first half of a semi final encounter, the spoils of which, should we prevail, are a day out at Wembley as underdogs on March 1st.
Sheffield United’s cup form belies their current status of 7th in League One. They have, as anyone who has read the papers will tell you, beaten five Premier League teams in the past year, QPR, West Ham, Southampton, Aston Villa and Fulham. Also, this is their second semi final in twelve months, they lost 5-3 to Hull in the FA Cup at Wembley in April, so anyone who thinks that we just need to turn up to get through is very sadly mistaken as they’ve clearly got something about them.
That scoreline against the Tigers was something of an anomaly. Most of the other games referred to above were tight with few goals, (the exception was the 3-0 trouncing of QPR); this gives an obvious clue to their strengths. We can expect them to sit back and hit us on the break when they can. So we’ll have to be at our best and take our chances when they arrive as they may be few and far between. The bleedin’ obvious I know but their plan will be to start the game next Wednesday with as small a deficit as possible. If we do get an early goal or two we shouldn’t assume the job is done of course, remember Burnley.
We will play our best side I’m sure. That means Mason, if fit enough, in for Dembele, Soldado out, Eriksen behind Kane, Townsend on the right, assuming Lamela’s calf isn’t ready and Chadli on the other side. The magnificent Hugo will be behind Walker, Rose and Vertonghen but if Fazio is still unwell then who makes up the rear quartet will be giving Pochettino much pause for thought. Our club captain Kaboul appears to have flicked the self destruct switch whereas Eric Dier gave an ok performance last Saturday that he may well get the chance to improve on in this game. If nothing else his eye for goal might come in handy!
It should be a great atmosphere. The away fans will fill the air with gallons of Magnet and greasy chip butties and of course, we do like a cup game.
Two games from Wembley, let’s hope our lads do us proud and make the most of home advantage tonight.
Neil Swarbrick is down to referee.
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