Sheffield United will return to action on Monday night following the most recent international break, as the Blades are set to host Arsenal at Bramall Lane.
It was an interesting match for United last time out, as they were able to pick up a point on the road against a potential rival in the fight for survival, but were still left wanting more.
Up against Watford at Vicarage Road, the Blades controlled possession to start the contest.
However, it would be the Hornets who really should have taken the lead. Roberto Pereyra picked out Andre Gray only a few yards out from goal, but the striker could only smash a shot from close range miles over the crossbar.
United responded well to the early pressure, and almost grabbed a goal of their own when Craig Cathcart redirected a cross towards his own goal. Luckily for him, keeper Ben Foster was quick to react, tipping the ball over the bar and out of play.
The moment of the match came five minutes into the second half when Danny Welbeck was played through on goal. Dean Henderson came flying off his line to cut down the shooting angle, and was ultimately able to make the big save, keeping the Blades in the game.
That would prove to be the last chance of the contest, as neither side managed to break down the other. United dropped down to 13th place in the Premier League as a result, putting them only two points clear of the relegation zone.
The timing of the break did not help Arsenal much, however, as they were just starting to gain some serious momentum.
They picked up another solid win in their most recent contest, beating AFC Bournemouth at the Emirates Stadium.
The Gunners managed to grab a crucial goal early on, as David Luiz headed home a corner from Nicolas Pepe in the 8th minute.
Pepe soon had the chance to make it two as the home side broke forward on the counter, but his curling effort sailed over the crossbar.
Arsenal were quite dominant in the first half, but almost conceded an equalizer minutes into the start of the second half. Callum WIlson got past Bernd Leno, but couldn’t find a teammate with a square pass in the area, with Callum Chambers coming in to clear away the danger.
The Gunners nearly doubled their advantage in the dying minutes, but a shot from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang rattled off the post and out of play instead.
That would not matter much, as Arsenal were able to hold on until fulltime, securing three vital points that pushed them up to 3rd in the league standings.
Last time out
Monday night will be the first time the two sides have faced off in more than a decade, with their last matchup coming in the 3rd round of the 2008 English League Cup.
It was a much different time back then, as Arsenal were contending for domestic and European trophies while United were fighting for promotion in the Championship.
The final score reflected the difference in quality between the two teams, as the Gunners ended up winning 6-0 on the afternoon.
Cult hero Nicklas Bendtner opened the scoring after rifling home a shot from distance before grabbing a second only ten minutes later.
Carlos Vela made it three before the end of the first half, and the Mexican international would score another in the 50th minute.
Jack Wilshere got in on the fun, drilling a low shot into the back of the net only a few minutes later.
Vela would manage to complete his hat-trick with before the contest was over, hitting United once again on the counter in the final moments, capping off the dominant performance in style.
United haven’t had to deal with too many injuries this season, but that might be set to change, as the trio of John Fleck, Oli McBurnie, and David McGoldrick could all miss out due to varying issues.
Blades boss Chris Wilder did not want to give out too much information in the pregame press conference, but it’s clear all three will undergo a late fitness test during the weekend to see if they’re able to play or not.
Arsenal have received much better news on the injury front, as a few players were able to recover during the international break.
Alexandre Lacazette has returned to training for the Gunners, and there’s a chance the Frenchman gets involved on Monday.
Kieran Tierney is also set to feature versus United, as the left back will likely make his Premier League debut after gaining match fitness for the team in various cup competitions.
However, Arsenal will be without youngster Reiss Nelson, who has been sidelined for about a month with a knee injury.
Sheffield United: Henderson, Baldock, Basham, Egan, O’Connell, Stevens, Lundstram, Norwood, Freeman, Mousset, Sharp
Arsenal: Leno, Chambers, Sokratis, Luiz, Tierney, Ceballos, Guendouzi, Torreira, Pepe, Aubameyang, Lacazette
What to watch for
Another tough test
Monday will be the third time United take on a “top six” team so far this season, and if past performances are any indication, the Blades will be ready for a fight.
They could not have started off worse against Chelsea at the end of August, as Tammy Abraham scored twice in the first half to give the Blues a commanding lead at Stamford Bridge.
However, United were able to dig down deep and claw their way back into the game, halving the deficit moments into the second half through Callum Robinson. They managed to keep piling on the pressure, and eventually broke through, forcing a late own goal to snatch a point on the road.
Although the Blades did lose at home to Liverpool a month later, it was a similarly spirited performance. This was much more of a defensive masterclass, as the backline kept the likes of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino, and Sadio Mane at bay throughout the contest.
A rare mistake would eventually cost them, unfortunately, as Henderson let a weak shot from Georginio Wijnaldum sneak past him into the back of the net. It was a heartbreaking way to lose, but United were at least able to hold their heads up high following the contest.
Now, fans will hope for more of the same tenacity versus Arsenal. The Gunners are a talented team, but they can be easily frustrated, especially against opposition that know how to defend.
If United can put together another strong showing, there’s plenty of reason to believe the Blades will take all three points from Bramall Lane on Monday night.