CARDS specialist Chris Goodwin (@CGeorgeGamble) picks out his favourite fancies from Sunday night's showdown between Sheffield United and Arsenal.
Sheffield United vs Arsenal | Sunday 11th April 2021, 19:00 | BT Sport
Arsenal venture north to the steel city of Sheffield as they take on a Blades side who must be eager to get this season over with.
Paul Heckingbottom’s side has lost 24 of their 30 league games this season, tasting victory just four times. It’s a dismal record and a far cry from the surprise package that we were treated to last season.
Meanwhile, Sunday's visitors aren’t having the best of seasons themselves. It can be argued they are in a transitional period under Arteta, but they’ve lost as many games as they’ve won and the consistency of results is something they need to rectify if they’re to challenge for the top four again anytime soon.
On paper, Arsenal should hand The Blades their 25th defeat of the season, but it’s never that simple.
● Seen 20+ booking points in 22/30 EPL games this campaign.
● The opposition has seen 20+ booking points in just eight of those.
● Have committed 12+ fouls in 28 of their 30 league matches this season.
● Have conceded in 28 of their 30 league games this season.
● Lost seven of their last eight EPL matches.
● Conceded at least two goals in their last three EPL matches.
● None of The Blades last 16 EPL games has finished level.
● Sheffield United are following concussion protocols but hope to have George Baldock and Jayden Bogle available here. The absence of both would give them a serious problem at right wing-back.
● The Blades at least have John Egan and Enda Stevens back from injury but Chris Basham remains a doubt for the home side. Ethan Ampadu should return to the XI here.
● Seen 20+ booking points in 16/30 EPL matches this season.
● The opposition has seen 20+ booking points in 17 of those.
● Have received 12+ fouls in 21 of their 30 league games this season.
● Have scored in 19 of their 30 league matches this season.
● Over 2.5 goals has landed in their last three EPL games.
● Failed to keep a clean sheet in any of their last nine EPL games.
● Knee injuries will keep defensive duo Kieran Tierney and David Luiz out against Sheffield United on Sunday.
● Granit Xhaka, Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe all returned to first-team action on Thursday in a boost for Arsenal.
● Martin Odegaard wasn't risked on Thursday owing to an ankle injury picked up during the international break. He remains a doubt here.
● Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was only a substitute on Thursday but will likely be recalled against Sheffield United.
● It wouldn't be a surprise if Mikel Arteta held a couple of players back on Sunday with an eye on the return leg against Slavia Prague on Thursday.
Referee: Peter Bankes
● Averages 3.33 yellow cards per game in the EPL this season.
● Awarding on average 23.28 free kicks per games this season.
● Has overseen three games featuring the Blades this season and has awarded them eight yellow cards in total.
My first pick is for Sheffield United to commit 12+ fouls. They’ve committed 12 or more in 28 of their 30 EPL games this season and have covered this line in each of their last 21 matches. Arsenals opponents have committed 12+ fouls against The Gunners in 24 of their 30 league games this season.
With Sheffield United playing for pride and Arsenal still fighting to finish as high as they can, I’m expecting referee Peter Bankes to award Arsenal at least 12 free-kicks. With this data in mind, 9/10 is far too high, in fact, I’d have this closer to 4/6.
My second pick is for The Blades to see 20+ booking points and for there to be at least one goal in the game.
Sheffield United have seen at least 20+ booking points in 22 of their 30 games so far this season and in each of their last four matches. As I previously mentioned, they’re playing purely for pride and games against Arsenal can be quite feisty. The Blades just have a tendency to be overzealous in terms of tackling and I think they pick up a couple of cautions here as The Gunners look to put them to the sword.
Then we just need a single goal in the game. Combined, these two have seen just three 0-0 draws in 60 matches. The Blades have also conceded in 28 of their 30 games this season. Not to mention Arsenal are on a torrid run of conceding in all of their last nine league games; I don’t see how this remains goalless.
As far as I’m concerned, we’re getting 4/5 on a selection that should be around 4/6.