Sheffield United v AFC Bournemouth: the teams; the referee; the form and the key men

As Sheffield United prepare for Sunday’s Premier League fixture against AFC Bournemouth at Bramall Lane, The Star’s James Shield analyses the facts, figures and form book behind this weekend’s game.

The Probable Teams

Sheffield United - Henderson, Basham, Egan, O’Connell, Stevens, Baldock, Norwood, Fleck, Berge, Mousset, McBurnie. AFC Bournemouth - Ramsdale, Smith, Ake, Francis, Riko, Gosling, Billing, L Cook, H Wilson, C Wilson, Fraser.

The Referee

Catch me if you can! Billy Sharp races away from his teammates after scoring the Blades' first goal back in the Premier League in the 1-1 draw at Bournemouth on the opening day of the season.

Jonathan Moss will take charge of the match, assisted by Marc Perry and Eddie Smart while Lee Mason is the fourth official. Peter Bankes is scheduled to overview the game’s major incidents in the VAR suite at Stockley Park, with Daniel Cook proving support. Moss, from West Yorkshire, averages 3.14 cautions per game so far this term and has not issued a red card since September. He has not refereed a contest involving United for over four years, when they were beaten 1-0 by Manchester United at Old Trafford in the FA Cup. Moss awarded the 93rd minute penalty which secured the hosts’ progress, after Dean Hammond had fouled Memphis Depay in the penalty box. Sunday’s fixture will also be the first time he has overseen Bournemouth since the start of the present campaign.

The Managers

Chris Wilder, the United manager, will be taking charge of his team for the 181st time since being appointed four years ago. He has won 93 of those games and drawn 41. Wilder started his coaching career in non-league football, joining Halifax following a successful spell with Alfreton Town before leading Oxford back into the English Football League. He then guided Northampton Town to promotion from League Two before winning the first of two promotions with United, his boyhood club, in 2017. Eddie Howe, Wilder’s rival across the technical area, boasts a win percentage of 41 during his second spell in charge of the visitors. That began in October 2012 and, like Wilder, he has led his team from the third to the first tier of the English game.Ten years Wilder’s junior, he also represented the club he now manages as a player.

The History Lesson

United and Bournemouth have only faced each other 16 times in competitive action ahead of this weekend’s match, with Wilder’s club winning 10 of those meetings and drawing on five occasions. The visitors only win over United came in August 1987, when they prevailed 1-0 at Bramall Lane. The highest scoring match between the two took place in September 2012, when United won 5-3 in South Yorkshire. Ryan Flynn was on target twice, while John Cofie, Richard Cresswell and Nick Blackman also found the back of the net. The game also marked the official opening of the renamed Jessica Ennis Stand at Bramall Lane - now known as the HE Barnes Stand - with five of the goals coming at that end. The first ever meetings between United and Bournemouth ended in stalemate, during the 1981/82 Division Four campaign.

The Form Book

United, who are preparing for this match in sixth, have lost only once in six outings. That defeat, at Bramall Lane, came at the hands of Manchester City, the reigning PL champions, on January 21. Four of those outings have ended in wins, with Wilder’s men scoring an average of 1.17 goals per game during that run and conceding only three. They will enter this match searching for a third consecutive clean sheet, after shut-outs against Millwall, in the FA Cup, and Crystal Palace. Bournemouth finished the latest round of top-flight games in 16th place; two points above the relegation zone. They have won three of their last six games and lost three. None of those victories came away from home. Bournemouth’s most recent away victory came at Chelsea, on December 14. That was also the last time they kept a clean sheet in the PL.

The Last Time Out

Billy Sharp’s late equaliser ensured United returned home from Dorset with a point, as they began the new season with a 1-1 draw at The Vitality Stadium. Chris Mepham had earlier fired Bournemouth in front, converting just past the hour mark when Dean Henderson parried a Callum Wilson shot. David McGoldrick missed a chance to open the scoring at the beginning of the game when he drew a fine save from former United goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale, who was making his PL debut. Callum Robinson also went close for the visitors before Sharp, who had only been on the pitch six minutes, turned home when Oli McBurnie’s shot rebounded off Nathan Ake. “We should have gone 1-0 up in the first moment and had a few chances,” Wilder said. “So did they, we handled it well. There were lots of ricochets and bobbles around the goal, then up steps Mr Sheffield United.”

The Key Men

Ramsdale is one of three former United players in the Bournemouth squad, with David Brooks and Simon Francis completing the trio. Callum Wilson, once a United target while still with Coventry City, has scored six top-flight goals this season, Harry Wilson, on loan from Liverpool, has netted on seven occasions. United’s joint-leading scorers in the PL this season are Lys Mousset and John Fleck. Mousset was signed from Bournemouth following their promotion from the Championship, but missed August’s trip to The Vitality Stadium due to a fitness issue. He has also found the back of the net more times for United (5) in the league than he did in three PL campaigns for Bournemouth.