Head-To-Head

Tuesday 4 February 2014 13:30

René Meulensteen stated in Monday’s press conference that he will play a strong team against Sheffield United on Tuesday night (7.45pm), but will also use the FA Cup with Budweiser Replay as an opportunity to give some of the younger players a run-out.

Full-backs Sascha Riether and Kieran Richardson had minor knocks after the Southampton game but our Head Coach expects them to be available, while Fernando Amorebieta has returned to training.

Our visitors were buoyed by the news that key defender Harry Maguire was not badly hurt after limping out of the action in the previous encounter at Bramall Lane, and he came through their fixture at the weekend unscathed. Chris Porter – goalscorer against the Whites last time out – has also recovered from a knock and will travel to London. Captain Michael Doyle will miss out, though, as he continues to serve a suspension following his red card against the Whites.

Tickets for this game are available to purchase online until 5pm, and can also be bought from cash turnstiles at the ground.

The opposition

Craven Cottage hasn’t been the happiest of hunting grounds for Sheffield United, as they have returned from the capital with a victory just once in their previous 11 visits, spanning a period of 46 years.

They will go into Tuesday’s game as big underdogs considering they play their football two divisions below Fulham. But they will not be fazed by the occasion, having knocked Aston Villa out on their own patch in the Third Round.

Like the Whites, the league campaign takes priority for Nigel Clough’s side but they go into the cup fixture on the back of a disappointing loss in Sky Bet League One. They travelled to relegation rivals Crewe Alexandra on Saturday but slipped to a 3-0 defeat as a Chuks Aneke brace and a strike from Byron Moore condemned the Blades to a fourth league game without victory.

Last time out

Sheffield United 1-1 Fulham 26.01.2014

Fulham had to settle for a Replay after a stubborn United side held out despite a numerical disadvantage following Doyle’s dismissal.

The game almost didn’t go ahead as heavy rainfall had left the Bramall Lane turf very boggy, and referee Andre Marriner conducted three pitch inspections before giving the green light.

Chris David and Hugo Rodallega created a couple of early openings without scaring the home crowd too much, with Muamer Tanković also trying his luck to no avail.

The home side’s first opening arrived when Jose Baxter sent a free-kick wide, although they then took the lead shortly after the half-hour mark. Maguire marauded forwards unchallenged and sent in a low cross which Porter reached first to poke beyond David Stockdale.

The Whites then saw a strong penalty appeal fall on deaf ears when Rodallega was felled by George Long after knocking the ball beyond the goalkeeper.

Pajtim Kasami and Baxter saw efforts miss the target and stopped by Stockdale, respectively, after the break, with each side keen to get what would be the crucial second goal of the game.

Fulham’s quest was aided when Blades skipper Doyle inexplicably lashed out at David off the ball. But, shortly after he was given his marching orders, his team went close to doubling their lead when a quick break culminated in Ryan Flynn testing Stockdale’s reflexes.

Flynn thought he should have had a penalty when he was caught by Aaron Hughes but, again, Marriner waved play on, with Fulham then taking the lead soon after when Rodallega fired home brilliantly from the edge of the box.

It was all Fulham in the closing stages as Meulensteen’s men looked to avoid a Replay, with Rodallega and Adel Taarabt both seeing efforts come and go, although the closest anyone came to a breakthrough was Philippe Senderos, who had a header hit the crossbar.

Players to watch

Chris Porter: As something of a poacher in front of goal, Chris Porter has enjoyed a respectable strike rate throughout his career, with the forward taking in spells at Oldham Athletic, Motherwell and Derby County after beginning his career with Bury. He first worked with Blades boss Clough at Derby, although that was one club where the goals didn’t flow as freely as he would have liked. Porter spent time on loan at Chesterfield this season but has hit five goals since returning to Bramall Lane, with the most recent his deft finish against Fulham nine days ago.

Harry Maguire: The assist for Porter’s goal against the Whites came in impressive style from centre-back Harry Maguire, who galloped forwards and played in a dangerous ball across the face for his teammate to clip home. Aged just 20, he already has more than 145 career appearances for the Blades under his belt, including 33 in the current campaign. Standing at 6’4”, he’s a dominant presence at the heart of the defence and United fans will be relieved that the injury picked up in the previous cup game was not serious.

Ryan Flynn: United’s star man in the upset at Villa Park, Ryan Flynn caused Paul Lambert’s side no end of problems, with a number of efforts from range finally seeing one nestle in the top corner as he grabbed the late winner with a fine left-footed drive. The winger was a member of the Liverpool side that secured back-to-back FA Youth Cups before he returned to Scotland with Falkirk – the club he began his career at. He signed for the Blades at the start of the 2011/12 campaign and the winger has since gone on to make more than 100 appearances for the club.

Magic numbers

1 - Sheffield United have won just one of their last five competitive away games (W1 D1 L3), but this win came at Premier League opposition (Aston Villa – FA Cup Third Round).

6 - Clint Dempsey has scored six goals in his last five FA Cup games.

2 - After 10 consecutive Fourth Round victories between 1998/99 and 2010/11, the Whites have gone out at this stage in the last two campaigns.

4 - The Blades have won all four previous FA Cup ties against Fulham - needing a Replay to get through on one occasion.