Why one Sheffield United player should tread very carefully during his team's Boxing Day clash with Watford
The Star’s Sheffield United writer James Shield analyses some of the facts, figures and major players likely to influence the outcome of Thursday’s game against Watford at Bramall Lane.
On This Date: Sheffield United have lost only three of their last 10 Boxing Day fixtures, with Port Vale, Hull City and Leicester City the only teams to beat them on December 26 since 2007.
Two of the matches they have played during that period, in 2015 and 2011, took place on the 28th and 27th respectively.
Watford, this year’s visitors to Bramall Lane, arrive at the foot of the Premier League table; 16 points worse off than Chris Wilder’s fifth placed side.
But after a terrible start to the season, which saw them fail to win any of their opening 11 games in the competition, results and performances have improved following Nigel Pearson’s appointment as manager.
After drawing with Crystal Palace 24 hours after his arrival at Vicarage Road, they impressed during a 2-0 defeat to leaders Liverpool before beating Manchester United on Sunday.
The Hertfordshire club will also make the journey north knowing they have not lost any of their last four meetings with United, whose last win over Watford came in August 2009.
Wilder’s men drew 0-0 at Watford in October.
The Referee: David Coote will take charge of this match; the fourth time he has overseen a fixture involving United since their return to the Premier League.
The Nottinghamshire official averages 4.66 cautions per game during those games, compared to 4.33 in all competitions this term.
George Baldock has been booked every time Cootes, who will be assisted by Peter Kirkup and Nick Hopton, has taken charge of United since August.
The wing-back is among four of their players who will miss this weekend’s trip to Manchester City if they receive a yellow card against Watford, with John Lundstram, Chris Basham and Oliver Norwood the others. Lundstram’s name was taken by Cootes when Crystal Palace were beaten at Bramall Lane at the beginning of the campaign.
Martin Atkinson is scheduled to perform VAR duties at Stockley Park.
Possible Teams: Sheffield United - Henderson, Basham, Egan, O’Connell, Stevens, Baldock, Norwood, Fleck, Lundstram, McGoldrick, McBurnie. Watford - Foster, Cathcart, Kabasele, Mariappa, Kiko, Hughes, Sarr, Doucoure, Deulofeu, Capoue, Deeney.
One to Watch: Although the appointment of Nigel Pearson has helped, the return of Troy Deeney is a major factor behind Watford’s improved displays of late. The visitors’ captain and talisman, he scored his 124th goal since arriving from Walsall in 2010 during Sunday’s 2-0 win over Manchester United. Deeney missed United’s trip to Hertfordshire two months ago.