Scout report: How Sheffield United can blow Bournemouth out the water and continue march to European qualification this weekend

Sheffield United are back in action on Sunday afternoon, when they take on Bournemouth in a repeat of the fixture which saw the Blades kick off their stunning 2019/20 campaign on the south coast back in August.

Wednesday, 5th February 2020, 11:43 am
Updated Wednesday, 5th February 2020, 11:43 am
(Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)

Another victory for the Blades could see them leapfrog Tottenham Hotspur into fifth place, as the wildly inconsistent performances of their follow competitors - and indeed United's own stunning efforts so far this season - continue to keep Chris Wilder's side in the hunt for European football next season.

Here's a look at the Blades' opponents this weekend, and how United could earn them themselves another big three points...

How's the Cherries' form been over their last five games? L-L-W-L-W

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Better than it was a month or two ago, that's for sure! Bournemouth's campaign has been completely derailed by a heaving injury list - to the extent the club's medical staff could make an excellent case for a sizeable extension to the treatment room.

Midfield marvel, and former Blade, David Brooks hasn't played a single minute this season, while the likes of Charlie Daniels, Josh King and Lloyd Kelly have also spent lengthy spells out of action.

Despite this, the south coast side have won their last two Premier League matches on the bounce, and head into Saturday's trip to Bramall Lane a team very much on the up.

Who are the 'Danger Men' United need to look out for?

Philip Billing has been Bournemouth's standout player in a tricky campaign, and has proven to be a fine piece of business after joining the club from Huddersfield Town last summer.

His bullish midfield display was pivotal in the Cherries' crucial 2-1 win over Aston Villa last weekend, as his aerial dominance and ruthless tackling gave Howe's men an extra edge. His brutal battle with Blades new boy Sander Berge will be a fascinating treat to behold.

In terms of a goal threat, Callum Wilson has been nowhere near as prolific as in previous seasons, but is always a striker to keep a close eye on. Harry Wilson is a set piece wizard - as the Blades discovered last season, when he whipped a stunning free-kick in off the bar for Derby County in a Boxing Day classic at Bramall Lane.

What about the manager?

The eternally cherubic Cherry has been far from his usual cheery self this season, with the side's struggles in the league clearly taking their toll on the ex-England youth international.

He's still very much the bookies' favourites to succeed Gareth Southgate as the next England manager, and deserves a huge amount of credit for turning Bournemouth into an established Premier League side over the past five seasons.

What's their style of play?

Formation wise, Howe's side tend to alternate between a 4-3-3 and a slightly more reserved 4-4-1-1.

In terms of their playing style, the Cherries are very much in favour of using pace to terrorise their opponents. Ryan Fraser and Harry Wilson are among the nippiest in the division, and can be lethal on the counter-attack if given a whiff of opportunity.

Their trademark zip in midfield passing is, however, distinctly lacking from their play this season, with the pairing of Billing and Jefferson Lerma seeing the side, on occasion, looking a little lumpen when in possession.

Any weaknesses to exploit?

In a league where seemingly nobody bar Liverpool and Sheffield United can defend this season, Bournemouth's 38 goals conceded in 25 outings isn't quite among the worst in the league.

They rarely concede from set-pieces or a counter-attack, but have conceded a hefty amount of goals from open play, with their defence being scythed apart time and time again.

Diego Rico, while briefly becoming the darling of Fantasy Premier League after a string of clean sheets and assists earlier in the season, is awfully wayward in his passing, and his shoddy sub-70% completion rate is just crying out to be exploited by the Blades' relentless pressing.