West Ham United return to Premier League action on Monday evening knowing victory over bottom club Sheffield United will consolidate their place in the top six.
Liverpool's defeat at Leicester City on Saturday means that a win over the Blades will take the Hammers above the champions and, with Chelsea not playing until later on Monday evening at home to Newcastle United, the Blues into the top four.
The Irons have lost just one of their previous nine top-flight matches heading into this fixture, but they will be seeking to bounce back from the disappointment of an extra-time defeat at Manchester United in the Emirates FA Cup fifth round.
Sheffield United, meanwhile, go into the game off the back of their own FA Cup win over Bristol City and having won three of their last six Premier League matches - albeit they have lost the other three.
The Hammers won the reverse fixture at Bramall Lane, 1-0 on 22 November last year, through the since-departed Sébastien Haller's 20-yard strike.
With England now back under a national lockdown due to the ongoing pandemic, this means the game will be played without supporters present. However, the match will be shown live in the UK by BT Sport 1 and BT Sport Ultimate, meaning our fans will be able to follow the action, safely, from home.
West Ham United manager David Moyes will definitely be without Angelo Ogbonna (high ankle sprain), Andriy Yarmolenko (knee), Darren Randolph and long-term absentee Arthur Masuaku (knee).
However, Michail Antonio (fatigue) and Issa Diop (head) should be available, while Fabián Balbuena (calf strain) faces a race to be fit to face the Blades.
Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder will be without Norway midfielder Sander Berge (thigh), centre-back Jack O'Connell (knee) and defender Jack Robinson (undisclosed).
However, wing-backs George Baldock (knee) and Enda Stevens could be available again.
The opposition – Sheffield United
Few clubs have been on a rollercoaster – on the pitch at least – with so many rises and dips than Sheffield United over the previous two years.
A seven-match unbeaten run at the end of the 2018/19 season saw the Blades pip Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds United for second place and promotion to the Premier League.
Under lifelong supporter and former player Chris Wilder, who had led his boyhood club to promotion from League One in 2017, Sheffield United then put together a sensational 2019/20 campaign that saw them challenge for European qualification and ultimately finish in a superb ninth place.
However, as so often happens, it has proved impossible for the Blades to replicate their first season back in the Premier League second time around.
Midway through last season, Sheffield United had lost just four of 19 games, collected 29 points and sat seventh in the table. This time around, after 19 games the Blades had won just once, lost 16 times, mustered just five points and sat bottom of the table.
No team had ever escaped relegation from such a perilous position but, under the refreshingly honest, relentlessly positive Wilder, Sheffield United have retained a belief that things would get better and, somehow, safety could be achieved.
Wins over Newcastle United, Manchester United and West Bromwich Albion closed the gap on the clubs immediately above them and, while it remains a long, long shot, the Blades still hope they can cut that gap and ultimately find themselves outside the bottom three come Sunday 23 May.
With Wilder, the man who has given his fellow fans success they could only have dreamed of when he was appointed in 2016, at the helm, you just never know!
How will they play?
Last season, Sheffield United’s success was built on a strong defensive setup that saw them concede just 39 goals in 38 Premier League matches.
With an outstanding goalkeeper in Manchester United loanee Dean Henderson and a back five, the Blades were hard to cut through.
This season, they have been less resolute, conceding 37 times in their opening 23 matches.
System-wise, Sheffield United have stuck with their three centre-backs, who are still getting forward whenever possible in support of their wing-backs. As a result, the visitors launch 78% of their attacks down the two flanks.
West Ham United meet Sheffield United in the Premier League for just the eighth time on Monday evening.
The Hammers scored just their second win over the Blades in this competition in the reverse fixture at Bramall Lane in November last year, when the since departed Sébastien Haller scored the only goal of the game to secure a 1-0 victory.
That scoreline also represents West Ham’s joint-biggest win over tonight’s visitors in the Premier League, as the only other win was also 1-0, courtesy of Hayden Mullins’ goal at the Boleyn Ground in November 2006.
The Blades’ biggest win came later the same season – a 3-0 success at Bramall Lane in April 2007.
Overall, Sheffield United have won three of the seven meetings, with two draws.
Our first-ever Premier League meeting was all the way back on 3 January 1994 during West Ham’s first season in the competition and ended in a goalless draw in Upton Park.
David Moyes has faced Sheffield United eight times as a manager with Preston North End, Everton and West Ham, winning five, drawing two and losing just one – the Irons’ controversial 1-0 defeat at Bramall Lane in January 2020, when Robert Snodgrass’ late leveller was ruled out for handball in the build-up by Declan Rice following a VAR review.
By the numbers
0 West Ham United remain the only Premier League side not to be awarded a top-flight penalty so far this season. Ahead of this round of matches, the full list of Premier League penalties awarded in 2020/21 is as follows:
|Brighton & Hove Albion||6||5|
|West Bromwich Albion||2||2|
10 West Ham United’s leading scorer in fixtures against Sheffield United is Jimmy Ruffell. The England international scored ten times against Blades between April 1925 and September 1931, with all ten coming in First Division matches. Ruffell scored twice in a game on three occasions – in a 6-2 win in April 1924, a 2-0 away win in October 1926 and a 4-0 home victory in August 1928 – and once four times – in a 3-3 draw at Bramall Lane in December 1928, a 4-2 defeat in Yorkshire on New Year’s Day 1930, a 2-1 away victory in March 1931 and a 2-1 home defeat in September of the same year.
4 Four players – Bill Robinson, Ken Tucker, Pop Robson and Jimmy Quinn – have scored hat-tricks for West Ham United against Sheffield United. Robinson and Tucker did so in consecutive Second Division seasons, in 1950/51 and 1951/52, at the Boleyn Ground, netting trebles in a 5-3 defeat and 5-1 win respectively. Robson and Quinn’s hat-tricks both came in 5-0 victories, Robson’s in the League Cup fifth round in November 1971 and Quinn’s in the old Division Two in March 1990.
3 Three players – Danny Shone, Billy Jennings and Jon Harley – scored on their West Ham United debuts in fixtures against Sheffield United. Shone’s goal came in a 4-0 First Division win at the Boleyn Ground in August 1928, Jennings’ strike in a 2-1 home top-flight defeat in September 1974, and Harley’s with a 30-yard rocket in a 3-3 Division One draw at Bramall Lane in January 2004.
2005 Mark Noble made the first of his seven career appearances against Sheffield United in an FA Cup fourth-round tie at the Boleyn Ground on 29 January 2005, more than 16 years ago! Then just 17 and eight months old, Noble started in midfield and helped the Hammers secure a 1-1 draw, then started again in the replay at Bramall Lane on 13 February, which also ended 1-1 but saw the Blades win through 3-1 on penalties. Phil Jagielka, who is now back with the Blades at the age of 38, started both for Sheffield United and scored in the initial tie!
5-0 The 5-0 win in which Jimmy Quinn netted a hat-trick in a Division Two fixture at the Boleyn Ground in March 1990 was also West Ham United’s biggest-ever League win over Sheffield United. Martin Allen and Trevor Morley were also on target in front of a 21,629 crowd as the Hammers secured a thumping victory over Dave Bassett’s Blades, whose team included current manager Chris Wilder.
1 Diafra Sakho scored the first of his 24 goals for West Ham United on his first start for the Club in a League Cup second-round tie with Sheffield United at the Boleyn ground on 26 August 2014. Unfortunately, the Blades equalised through Winston Reid’s own-goal and went on to win 5-4 on penalties after extra-time.
27 The following 27 players have been on the books of both West Ham United and Sheffield United: William Barnes, Henri Camara, Franz Carr, Joe Cockroft, Mervyn Day, Brian Deane, Jon Harley, Jim Holmes, Ted Hufton, Don Hutchison, David Kelly, Matt Kilgallon, Dick Leafe, Tom McAlister, Frederick Milnes, Ravel Morrison (pictured), Wayne Quinn, Martin Peters, Lou Raisbeck, Kyel Reid, Jim Simmons, Percy Thorpe, David Unsworth, Edward Wagstaff, Simon Webster, Herbert Winterhalder and Richard Wright.
Referee: Simon Hooper
Assistant Referees: Derek Eaton and Timothy Wood
Fourth Official: Graham Scott
VAR: Michael Oliver
Assistant VAR: Simon Bennett
Born in Swindon in Wiltshire in July 1982, Simon Hooper has been a member of the Select Group of Premier League referees since 2018.
Prior to his appointment to the Select Group, Hooper was appointed to the National List in 2008.
He was promoted to Select Group 2 in 2016 and took charge of the 2017 League One Play-Off final between Bradford City and Millwall at Wembley.
The 38-year-old has taken charge of five West Ham United fixtures previously – a 1-0 home win over Coventry City in the Championship in January 2012, a 3-0 Carabao Cup third round win over Bolton Wanderers in September 2017, a 2-0 Premier League defeat at AFC Bournemouth in January 2019, a 5-1 EFL Cup third round win over Hull City last September, and the 2-2 Premier League draw with Brighton & Hove Albion here in late December.
Hooper has refereed Sheffield United on eleven occasions previously, with the first being a 4-1 League One win over Chesterfield in March 2012. Of the eleven, the Blades have won eight, including four in the Premier League last season, drawn two and lost one.