Analysis: The contrasting rise of the Blades and fall of the Canaries
Norwich can expect a physical battle on Sunday afternoon but the pace of Hernandez will be important (Photo: Getty Images)

Sunday afternoon marks a meeting between last season's two surprise automatic promotees, Norwich City and Sheffield United.

Yet, whilst one has continued their remarkable rise under the stewardship of Chris Wilder, propelling themselves from League One mediocrity to the cusp of a Europa League challenge, the other find themselves staring down the barrel of a quick return to the Championship.

Finding an effective formula

Sheffield United’s rise up the leagues has been built upon an inventive tactic with two of the three central defenders splitting to join attacking moves. Successful and imaginative, it is remarkable that no other side has tried to replicate the approach...almost as if considered untouchable because of the tactic's origins.

In contrast, Daniel Farke can’t settle on a recipe that ignites the taste buds at Carrow Road. 4-2-3-1, 4-3-3, Norwich appear to be struggling to transform their fluid, attacking style of football from the Championship into a winning formula in the Premier League.

Defensively against Southampton in the week they were a shambles. Zonal marking from set-pieces completely undone, almost predictably, by one of the most effective sides in the league from such positions.

Farke talked about being "bullied" in that contest. They now come up against one of the most physical sides in the league, passionate to win every single challenge.

In fact, the only time Sheffield United have switched off this season is when Jonjo Shelvey stooped against VAR to seal an improbably three points for Newcastle on Thursday evening.

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Norwich must prepare for physicality

Nothing says bullying quite like how Lys Mousset, a former Bournemouth flop, shoved Phil Jones off the ball when Sheffield United took the game to the most successful side in Premier League history recently

Another split second of football that underpinned Sheffield United’s season from that Man United contest was the overwhelming desire flooding across Oli Norwood’s face when he went into a bruising 50-50 challenge ala Roy Keane

And it is these examples that identify why the Blades have recovered from losing positions to pick up points in 33% of games this season.

Whilst the men from the Steel City personify the nickname for the area they represent on the pitch, Norwich must ensure they compete in the engine room and Tom Trybull will be key if selected, averaging 2.7 tackles per game, 15th in the league.

Norwood himself lingers around the area statistically but it is in the air that Sheffield United offer a real danger - averaging almost twice as many aerial duel successes per game compared to Norwich, second top versus second bottom in that department.

Sunday afternoon's contest isn’t a game for the likes of Emi Buendia, Norwich need to show some fight and physicality, attributes Farke has been pleading for every week.

Transitions are key

Perhaps the most important saving grace for Norwich is that Sheffield United aren't always the best at recycling the ball.

With a pass success rate of 75.8%, better than only three teams in the league, Norwich can expect to have opportunities to manufacture numerous transitions...but they must be fast.

Again reigniting memories of the Man United contest, the Blades saw a 2-0 lead disintegrate into a 3-2 regression as United's speed on the counter-attack turned the game during a seven-minute barrage.

Onel Hernandez, who scored one and created another in the two meetings between the sides last season, could be licking his lips.

In Norwood, John Lundstrom, John Fleck and Enda Stevens, Sheffield United have four of the top 30 players in the league to have been dribbled past the most.

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