It seems strange to think that this match was being played in the top flight just a few years ago, although Sheffield United’s demise means that two divisions separate the two sides. However, after the Blades knocked Aston Villa out of the competition in the last round, victory for the top flight Cottagers is certainly not guaranteed.
Even though the Blades did cause an upset in the process of getting to this stage of the competition, one should not be blinded by their cup exploits alone. The Bramall Lane outfit have experienced a torrid campaign and are actually in danger of dropping to the bottom of the football pyramid, with goal difference being the only factor keeping them out of League One’s bottom four. Still, Nigel Clough has definitely had a positive effect on the Blades and results have at least narrowly improved since his appointment. He’ll be desperate to earn another victory this weekend though, with the club’s only other win this calendar year occurring in the last round against Villa.
Fulham are also experiencing relegation trouble of their own and actually find themselves in an identical position to their opponents, with one point and one place also separating them from the top flight drop zone. Another similarity revolves around their manager and they have also opted to initiate a change in a bid to maximise their chances of survival. At the time of writing, it remains to be seen whether the decision to install Rene Meulensteen was a good choice. The Craven Cottage outfit have certainly been at the centre of mixed results and while they may have thrashed Norwich 3-0 in the last round of this competition, that was sandwiched between defeats to Sunderland and Arsenal.
Something that will make Sheffield United’s task somewhat easier this weekend is the rotation policy that Fulham are expected to utilise. In a bid to rest key players, Meulensteen is reportedly set to give minutes to fringe ones with Aaron Hughes and Elsad Zverotic two names that have been mentioned. Meulensteen does have one player who won’t be featuring for fitness reasons though, with Fernando Amorebieta sidelined through a knee injury. The Blades also have absentees, with Callum McFadzean, Elliott Whitehouse and Billy Paynter all ineligible. However, that’s all Nigel Clough has to contend with, meaning that he still has plenty of options ahead of the tie.
This is one game where we can foresee a cup upset. Sheffield United might be languishing near the bottom of League One, but they showed in the last round that they are capable of knocking out the best. With Fulham seemingly not taking the tie very seriously by resting players, we think there is a chance that the Blades could escape with a 2-1 victory on Sunday.