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Preview: Chelsea vs. Sheffield United - prediction, team news, lineups

:Headline: Preview: Chelsea vs. Sheffield United - prediction, team news, lineups:
Sports Mole previews Sunday's FA Cup clash between Chelsea and Sheffield United, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.
Sports Mole

A place in the semi-finals of the FA Cup is up for grabs on Sunday when Chelsea welcome Sheffield United to Stamford Bridge.

The Blues are still unbeaten under new boss Thomas Tuchel, whereas Sheffield United's own change of management got off to the worst possible start last time out.

Match preview

There has been a controversial managerial change at both of these clubs this season, but they have so far yielded contrasting results.

While it is too early to judge Sheffield United's decision to sack Chris Wilder, even taking into account their 5-0 defeat in the first match of the post-Wilder era, it is becoming more and more difficult to deny that Chelsea made a shrewd decision in replacing Frank Lampard with Tuchel.

The former Borussia Dortmund and Paris Saint-Germain boss has so far led his side back into the top four, through to the Champions League quarter-finals to face Porto and will now be looking to book an FA Cup semi-final date too.

A 2-0 triumph over Atletico Madrid on Wednesday night means that Tuchel has now enjoyed the longest unbeaten start of any manager in Chelsea's history, winning nine and drawing four of his 13 games at the helm so far.

Perhaps the most impressive aspect has been their defensive record; the Atletico win provided Chelsea's sixth clean sheet in a row, while they have kept 11 in his 13 games in charge so far and have conceded just two goals in that run.

Remarkably, the Blues are yet to concede a single goal at home during Tuchel's tenure, last doing so in Frank Lampard's final game in charge - a 3-1 win over Luton Town in the fourth round of the FA Cup.

Chelsea have also seen off Morecambe and Barnsley so far in this season's competition to make it to the quarter-finals for the 15th time since the turn of the millennium - more than any other club in that time.

The eight-time winners have gone on to reach the semi-finals four times in the last five seasons, and they will be favourites to continue that impressive record against a Sheffield United side that has severely struggled in the Premier League this season.

The Blades made the worst start to a top-flight season in English football history and, while things have improved since the turn of the year with 12 of their 14 points coming in 2021, it is only a matter of time before relegation is mathematically confirmed.

Sheffield United are 14 points adrift of safety with only nine games remaining, meaning that the FA Cup is their last remaining hope to salvage anything from their season.

Like Chelsea, the Blades have only come up against lower-league opposition en route to the last eight, plundering the West Country with victories over Bristol Rovers, Plymouth Argyle and Bristol City.

Those wins have earned them a place in the quarter-finals for a second successive year - the first time they have managed that since 2003-04 - but you have to go back to 1992-93 for the last time they beat top-flight opposition to make it into the semi-finals of this competition.

Sheffield United have also lost six of their last nine away FA Cup games against top-flight sides, although they do arrive at Stamford Bridge on a three-match winning away run in the cup.

In all competitions, though, they have lost their last four on the road without scoring a single goal, most recently the 5-0 drubbing they received at the hands of Leicester City last weekend as Paul Heckingbottom's interim reign got off to an inauspicious start.

That does not bode well coming up against a Chelsea side in such good form and with such a good defensive record, but much stranger things have happened in the FA Cup and for Sheffield United the success of their season could well come down to Sunday's match.

Chelsea FA Cup form:
  • W
  • W
  • W

Chelsea form (all competitions):
  • W
  • D
  • W
  • W
  • D
  • W

Sheffield United FA Cup form:
  • W
  • W
  • W

Sheffield United form (all competitions):
  • L
  • L
  • L
  • W
  • L
  • L

Team News

Tuchel is expected to make changes from the side that beat Atletico Madrid in midweek, with midfield duo Mason Mount and Jorginho - suspended for that European tie - among those ready to return.

Chelsea will be without Thiago Silva and this season's FA Cup top-scorer Tammy Abraham again, with both players set to use the international break to fully recover from injury, but Andreas Christensen could be back available after illness.

Emerson Palmieri's only action under Tuchel had been in the FA Cup prior to his 93rd-minute introduction against Atletico, and his goal one minute later could earn him a start here - although Ben Chilwell is also pushing for a left-back berth.

Christian Pulisic, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Billy Gilmour, Olivier Giroud and Kepa Arrizabalaga are among the other players who sat on the bench in midweek and will therefore hope to start on Sunday.

Sheffield United are likely to field as strong a lineup as possible with the FA Cup now the only thing left to fight for this season, although their options at the back in particular are severely depleted.

Phil Jagielka is a doubt due to the tragic death of his brother this week, while Chelsea loanee Ethan Ampadu is unable to face his parent club.

The duo join John Egan, Jack Robinson and Jack O'Connell as defensive absentees, meaning that Enda Stevens will likely need to fill in as one of the three centre-backs.

Sander Berge and Jack Rodwell are also sidelined, but David McGoldrick is now back in training after missing out against Leicester last weekend with a knee injury.

Billy Sharp has scored the winning goals in both of the last two rounds of the FA Cup, and so will hope to keep his place ahead of Rhian Brewster.

Chelsea possible starting lineup:
Kepa; Azpilicueta, Christensen, Zouma; Hudson-Odoi, Jorginho, Gilmour, Chilwell; Pulisic, Giroud, Mount

Sheffield United possible starting lineup:
Ramsdale; Basham, Bryan, Stevens; Baldock, Lundstram, Norwood, Fleck, Lowe; McGoldrick, Sharp

We say: Chelsea 2-0 Sheffield United

Even accounting for the unpredictability of the FA Cup, it is difficult to back anything other than a fairly routine Chelsea win in this match.

Indeed, given Chelsea's defensive record and Sheffield United's attacking record, it is difficult to see the visitors even scoring, yet alone pulling off an upset to keep their season alive.

Top tip

Our expert tipster partners at Sporita.com are predicting a home win in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Home Win:data

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Premier League Table
CManchester CityMan City38275683325186
2Manchester UnitedMan Utd382111673442974
5Leicester CityLeicester382061268501866
6West Ham UnitedWest Ham381981162471565
7Tottenham HotspurSpurs381881268452362
9Leeds UnitedLeeds38185156254859
11Aston Villa38167155546955
12Newcastle UnitedNewcastle38129174662-1645
13Wolverhampton WanderersWolves38129173652-1645
14Crystal Palace38128184166-2544
16Brighton & Hove AlbionBrighton38914154046-641
RWest Bromwich AlbionWest Brom38511223576-4126
RSheffield UnitedSheff Utd3872292063-4323
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