Wolverhampton Wanderers vs Sheffield United Preview: Two quality sides with Europa League ambitions face off
Photo by Chris Radburn of PA Images via Getty Images

Super Sunday serves up another interesting Premier League matchup this weekend, as Wolverhampton Wanderers will host Sheffield United at the Molineux Stadium in a battle between two in-form teams. 

Only one point separates the clubs in the league standings, with Wolves in 5th and the Blades one spot behind them.

Wolves are unbeaten in all competitions in the month of November, which has propelled them back up the league table. It’s been a remarkable return for the West Midlands side who started the campaign in woeful form.

Having to deal with midweek matches due to their Europa League commitments, Wolves were tired in almost all of their early Premier League games. They were sat in the relegation zone for a few weeks, but they’ve finally dug themselves out of their early hole, and are now back near the top of the standings.

Sheffield United have been the surprise package of the season, and their most recent performance showed how far they’ve come. Hosting Manchester United at Bramall Lane, the Blades were miles better to start the contest, running out to a 2-0 lead. 

However, for the first time this campaign, they collapsed, conceding three goals in a short span in the second half. Sheffield United rebounded well, and went on to snatch an equalizer in the dying moments through Oli McBurnie.

At the end of the night, Blades fans were left disappointed that they only got a point against Manchester United. If you told those same supporters that’s what the future had in store only a year ago, they wouldn’t believe you. 

Last time out

It’s been about a year and a half since these two sides last faced off, back when both were fighting for promotion in the English Championship.

Taking place at the Molineux Stadium, Wolves opened the scoring after only five minutes. It was yet another beautiful strike from Ruben Neves, who curled a shot into the top right corner to start the contest.

They would double their advantage at the half hour mark through Diogo Jota, who slotted home from the edge of the area after a clever give-and-go with Ivan Cavaliero.

Things only got worse for the Blades as the match went on, as goalkeeper Simon Moore was shown a red card after taking out Jota outside of the penalty box.

Cavaliero turned from provider to goalscorer soon after, as his free kick deflected off the wall before making its way into the bottom corner.

That would prove to be the final goal of the contest, as Wolves ran out 3-0 winners on the afternoon. It cemented the gulf in class between the two sides at the moment, as one team was having money pumped into it while the other was simply surviving off scraps.

The difference in salary might be the same, but Sheffield United will feel immensely proud that they’re right behind Wolves in the standings nowadays.

Teams news

Wolves will be without Romain Saiss on Sunday, as he was suspended for the contest after picking up his fifth yellow card of the season last week versus AFC Bournemouth.

Willy Boly is still recovering from a fractured leg, while Morgan Gibbs-White is dealing with a back injury, so both will be unavailable for selection.

There is some good news for Wolves, as defender Ryan Bennett could make his return to the team after missing Thursday’s Europa League game versus Braga.

The pairing of Dean Henderson and John Egan were ruled out of Sheffield United’s last match, but both will likely be back in the starting lineup on Sunday afternoon.

There is reason to worry for the Blades, however, as Lys Mousset was subbed off versus Manchester United after picking up a knock, and it’s unclear if he’ll be fit to return in time for the game against Wolves. 

Predicted lineup

Wolves: Patricio, Dendoncker, Coady, Bennett, Doherty, Neves, Moutinho, Jonny, Adama, Jimenez, Jota

Sheffield United: Henderson, Basham, Egan, O’Connell, Baldock, Lundstram, Norwood, Fleck, Stevens, McGoldrick, Robinson

What to watch for

3-5-2 versus 3-5-2

The 3-5-2 might be a dying formation in the modern age of football, but Wolves and Sheffield United are two teams who still use it with great success. On Sunday, it will be interesting to see what happens when they go up against one another.

Each team applies different tweaks to their respective lineups, with the most obvious ones coming in terms of the back three.

The Blades have become famous for their overlapping centerbacks. Chris Basham and Jack O’Connell constantly join in on the attack, running down the wings and disorienting the opposing backline as a result.

Wolves, on the other hand, like to keep their central defenders back, letting the midfielders handle more of the attacking responsibilities. Willy Boly and Conor Coady only ever make their way forward on set pieces, using their height to help the team in the air.

On Sunday, we will see which side has truly mastered the 3-5-2. Whatever happens, we know former Holland manager Louis Van Gaal will be watching somewhere with a smile on his face.