Sheffield United will go into a daunting Christmas period with the benefit of a cushion, but centre-back Chris Basham insists they will go into it determined to keep picking up points.
The Blades make the long trip to Brighton and Hove Albion for Saturday’s final Premier League game before Christmas.
Everyone’s enjoying it, everyone’s confident and loving life. Long may it continue.Chris Basham
Over the Festive period the Blades host Watford, then travel to Manchester City and Liverpool.
Even the bottom-of-the-table Hornets could be a difficult proposition, with former Sheffield Wednesday captain Nigel Pearson recently installed as manager.
It is the two high-profile matches in the north-west which will provide Sheffield United’s biggest test since returning to the Premier League, however.
With 25 points already in the bag, the pressure will theoretically be off going into those games, but Basham says that is not how they will treat them.
“Our Christmas games are really difficult but the gaffer (manager Chris Wilder) won’t just let us enjoy them, he will want us to take points and keep our run going away from home,” he argued. “There’s no reason why we can’t do that.”
The Blades have not lost back-to-back matches since the opening week of last season, and they should have no reason to fear the Premier League’s two best sides of recent years.
Liverpool will be going into their first game of 2020 on the back of a horrendously congested December.
They are in Qatar at the Club World Cup, despite having had a first-team fixture in the League Cup to fulfil on Tuesday night. I
On top of that, the Blades gave Jurgen Klopp’s Reds a huge scare when the sides met at Bramall Lane in September.
Liverpool claimed a fortuitous 1-0 win when goalkeeper Dean Henderson let a routine shot from Georginio Wijnaldum between his legs.
Manchester City have shown a vulnerability not seen over the last two seasons, losing four league games already, most notably to struggling Norwich City.
Pep Guardiola’s side will have a day’s less preparation for the game as they face Wolverhampton Wanderers – another of the sides to have already beaten them in 2019-20 – the previous Friday evening. The Blades play on Thursday afternoon.
While Liverpool will be playing under the weight of expectation as they look to close out a first title success since 1990, and City are having to ask questions about why they are not meeting the high standards they have set for themselves, Basham says Sheffield United’s players are just enjoying being in the Premier League.
That shows in the freedom they are playing with, and the quality football they are producing.
Basham had a taste of the top-flight with first club Bolton Wanderers and Blackpool, but has had to work his way back up from League One. Some of his team-mates have similar stories, but many are experiencing the world’s most glamorous domestic football league for the first time this season.
“Everyone will be thinking, ‘Sheffield United could have a rocky time now’,” said Basham said reference to the upcoming fixtures, “but everyone’s enjoying it, everyone’s confident and loving life. Long may it continue.
“It’s enjoyable to play in and it has been since the manager came in.
“He’s brought in Lys Mousset (signed from Bournemouth in the summer) and a great bunch of talented footballers on the bench as well. Hopefully, we’ll see them over the Christmas period.”
Red Bull Salzburg play-maker Takumi Minamino, 24, is set to become a Liverpool player on New Year’s Day for £7.25m after the Reds triggered the Japan international’s release clause.