James Shield's Sheffield United Column: Why - and how - The Blades can beat Liverpool

He knows it is going to be a tall order. Undoubtedly, with the European champions' unbeaten league run stretching back to January, the toughest challenge his team have faced since returning to top-flight competition.

Saturday, 28th September 2019, 2:51 pm
The Star's Sheffield United writer James Shield
The Star's Sheffield United writer James Shield

But even though they could easily find themselves on the wrong end of a hiding, Chris Wilder's Sheffield United are also quite capable of beating Liverpool. Why? Because of the qualities they demonstrated against Everton last weekend. Things which, despite being impossible to quantify or illustrate in statistical, spreadsheet or graphical form, actually win football matches. Durability. Resilience. Desire. And, most importantly, a commitment to giving it a bloody good go.

Admittedly, Wilder's team must perform a whole lot better to stand a chance tomorrow than they did at Goodison Park. The type of carelessness in possession, which nearly undermined an otherwise gutsy first-half display there, will be punished more ruthlessly by the likes of Mo Salah and Sadio Mane than Moise Kean and Richarlison. But for all the misleading focus on their over-lapping centre-halves - a phenomena which has occurred only sporadically since achieving promotion last term - United's shape has so far been effective. Nearly as successful, figures relating to shots on target against them reveal, as the visitors from Anfield.

The key to ending the impressive sequence of results posted by Jurgen Klopp's team, however, is not going to be found in any coaching manual or dissertation about how best to position oneself during the transition. It is actually a mind set.

Sign up to our Sheffield United newsletter

Sheffield United always try and attack matches: James Wilson/Sportimage

Too often clubs, particularly those new to the division, retreat into their shells when facing the big guns. It makes no sense, despite the protestations of managers, coaching staff and former professionals turned pundits, absolutely no sense.

If it is sensible to sit back and invite pressure, essentially play a training ground exercise of attack versus defence against a squad which could field nearly £130m worth of goal-scoring talent, then I'll gladly do something embarrassing on the Town Hall steps. Because it isn't. Yes, you might get lucky and snatch a result. But the chances, that's not going to happen. Not if your strategy involves allowing Salah, Roberto Firmino and Mane to spend 90 minutes camped on the edge of your own box.

Better, surely, to try and take the game to a side with such devastating firepower? Give them something to think about and increase the odds of finding the back of the net at the right end of the pitch.

That is the attitude, the evidence of the past three years suggests, United will take into the game. If Liverpool get into their comfort zone, the chances are they are going to prevail. So better to keep them out of it by committing men forward when the opportunity allows. Ignoring the ridiculous and quite frankly idiotic idea that you have to focus purely on suffocating the game.