Simon Mail previews this weekend's game between two sides looking for their first point of the season with Sheffield United hosting Fulham...
"Sheffield United won ten home games last season and will know this is a golden opportunity to claim an overdue win against one of the weakest opponents in the division."
Sheffield United v Fulham
Live on BT Sport Box Office
Blades struggling to match last season's success
Sheffield United were one of the undoubted success stories of last season after Chris Wilder's unheralded team followed promotion with a brilliant campaign to finish ninth in the Premier League. The Blades were in the top half for the entirety of the season and boasted one of the best defensive records in the competition. It has not gone to plan in the opening weeks of the new campaign but talk of second season syndrome seems an exaggeration.
It was always likely Sheffield United would find following up their outstanding achievement a difficult task. Four defeats from their opening four games, including a 2-1 loss in their latest outing at Arsenal, highlights this but their main downfall so far has been their lack of goals. The Blades have been competitive but only one goal scored underlines their weakness. Sheffield United have created chances though and the signing of striker Rhian Brewster in a club record deal from Liverpool could provide the solution.
Fulham set for huge struggle after promotion
Fulham returned to the top flight after beating Brentford to win promotion via the Championship play-off final in August. Scott Parker guided the club back into the Premier League at the first attempt but the signs are already ominous after a worrying start to the season. Fulham are also without a point and propping up the table on goal difference.
After just four matches, it appears Fulham have been written off already as nailed on for relegation. It is easy to see why this assumption has been made with the Cottagers' defence looking all at sea in heavy defeats against Arsenal and Aston Villa. Fulham tightened up in their last league game but were still beaten 1-0 at Wolves and it looks like a long winter ahead for Parker's side.
Hosts worth backing as favourites
Although Sheffield United are still looking for their first win, the hosts look worthy favourites at 6/52.18 to get off the mark with a victory this weekend. Sheffield United won ten home games last season and will know this is a golden opportunity to claim an overdue win against one of the weakest opponents in the division.
Fulham are 3.9 outsiders for the game but there is little appetite to back the visitors. Parker's side have failed to score in three of their four matches and their failure to significantly strengthen their squad looks likely to hold them back this season. Fulham will come under plenty of pressure at Bramall Lane and do not look worth chancing at the odds.
The draw is trading at 12/53.4 but it is worth noting Parker has not been involved in a stalemate during 14 games as a manager in the Premier League. Fulham may well set up to frustrate their opponents, in the hope of claiming at least a point, but Sheffield United look the superior side and should be able to justify their status as favourites over the course of the game.
Both teams have been struggling for goals this season and a low-scoring Sheffield United victory is a way of enhancing the odds on a home win. All of the Blades' games have featured no more than three goals and their lack of firepower suggests a narrow win is the most likely outcome. A Sheffield United win with under 3.5 goals increases their odds to 8/5.
Another option worth considering is backing Sheffield United to win with a clean sheet. The Blades based last season's success on their defensive strength and Wilder may look to go back to basics this weekend. Sheffield United won 11 games to nil last season and Fulham are heavily reliant on Aleksandar Mitrovic in attack. The hosts are available at 23/10 for a win with a clean sheet and this is another tempting alternative for those looking to back the Blades at a bigger price.
Fulham and Sheffield United are the only sides yet to have led so far in the Premier League this season, while Fulham have been behind for a league-high four hours 40 minutes in 2020-21. It is 4/6 for the Blades to take the lead and 6/4 for Fulham to score the first goal.
Follow Simon's bets on Twitter @watfordtipster
Back Sheffield United at 6/52.18