Sheffield United-Leeds United Preview

Paul Heckingbottom has been thrust into an unenviable situation at Sheffield United, and now faces the task of rallying the Premier League's bottom club for a trip to his former team Leeds United.

The Yorkshire rivals meet at Elland Road on Saturday with 25 points – and nine places – between them.

Since taking temporary charge of the Blades following Chris Wilder's departure, Heckingbottom has overseen defeats to Leicester City and Chelsea, the latter coming in the FA Cup.

Heckingbottom left Barnsley to join Leeds in 2017-18, but lasted just four months before he was sacked, with Marcelo Bielsa replacing him and eventually guiding the Whites back to the top flight.

"People are going to talk about it, it's always nice to be up against a former team," he said. "It was a difficult time leaving Barnsley but it had to be done on principle and I don't regret it. It gave me another experience to work with a really good group of players and another ownership, and it gives you an opportunity to learn and get better. I don't regret it at all, I've enjoyed every role I've had in football.

"It is always nice to be up against a former team, for lots of reasons. I still speak to the ownership there. No ill feeling. Right club, wrong time for myself. That is how you have to look at it."

Bielsa, meanwhile, does not believe two games is enough evidence to judge how the Blades will play under Heckingbottom.

"Two games is not enough to observe major changes," Bielsa explained. "The people who remain at the club and worked under him, they have a very good concept of the work he had done here, I've only heard praise given in the time that he was here."

Leeds United – Kalvin Phillips

Phillips comes into this game fresh from an impressive run of performances for England, and the 25-year-old is integral to how Leeds play. He missed most of February due to injury, but will be eager to maintain his good form to get himself firmly in Gareth Southgate's plans for the Euros.

Sheffield United – Rhian Brewster

A player who did not enjoy a good international break is Brewster – the former Liverpool striker having been part of the England U21 squad which crashed out of the European Championships this month. He is yet to score a goal for the Blades, and needs to starting showing his quality ahead of next season.

• Leeds have won two of their last three league games against Sheffield United (L1), as many as in their previous 11 against the Blades (D3 L6). They are looking to complete their first league double over their Yorkshire rivals since their 1991-92 title winning campaign.

• Sheffield United have scored a league-low 16 Premier League goals this season, but have an expected goals (xG) total of 26.8, meaning they have scored almost 11 goals fewer than expected based on the quality of their chances. Indeed, the Blades have the lowest shot conversion rate in the league this term, netting just 6.56 per cent of their attempts (16/244).

• Heckingbottom was in charge of Leeds for 16 games in 2018. He will be the 14th different manager to face the Whites in a league game at Elland Road having previously managed them, with only three of the previous 13 winning their first visit back (D1 L9) – Allan Clarke in 1986 (with Barnsley), Neil Redfearn in 2015 (with Rotherham United) and Neil Warnock in 2017 (with Cardiff City).

• Patrick Bamford scored the only goal in Leeds' 1-0 win at Bramall Lane in the reverse fixture – the last Leeds player to score home and away against Sheffield United in the same league season was Peter Swan in 1987-88.

• Leeds' Premier League games have seen a league-high 92 goals scored so far this season, with the Whites scoring 45 and conceding 47. Indeed, Leeds' haul of 45 goals is the most by a promoted team at this stage of a Premier League season since Sunderland in 1999-00 (46).

Updated April 2, 2021

Sports Data API Powered by STATS © 2021 by STATS PERFORM.
Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS PERFROM is strictly prohibited.