2021-22 Sky Bet Championship: Week One – Saturday

Sheffield United return to the Sky Bet Championship after a two-season absence as the Blades host Birmingham City at Bramall Lane in Saturday Night Football.

The Blades begin life under Slavisa Jokanovic back in the Championship after suffering relegation in a disastrous Premier League campaign last season.

Birmingham City meanwhile start their 11th season in the second tier and will be looking to build on a 18th placed finish last season.

 

Team News

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Enda Stevens is ruled out for Sheffield Utd as he continues to recover from an unspecified injury.

Billy Sharp (muscle) and Oli McBurnie (foot) are doubts after only resuming training this week, having missed both pre-season friendlies but could be available for selection if deemed match fit.

Birmingham could be without Neil Etheridge as he continues to rebuild match fitness following a battle against Coronavirus during pre-season.

Dion Sanderson and Ivan Sunjic are ruled out with knocks.

 

Stat Attack

  • Sheffield United have won just one of six previous Championship meetings against Birmingham City (W1, D3, L2).
  • Birmingham City are winless in their last five league trips to Bramall Lane (D2, L3).
  • Sheffield United have never bounced back into England’s top flight in their first season back in the second tier following eight separate relegations.
  • Birmingham have lost just one of their last five opening matches in a new season (W2, D2, L1), plus have won their last two opening games by 1-0 results.
  • Sheffield United have won their only previous Championship match refereed by Tim Robinson, defeating Ipswich Town 2-0 at home in April 2019 en route to promotion.

 

Prediction

Having suffered relegation, Sheffield United have done a great job of retaining the majority of their squad who have already adapted well to life under Jokanovic with a solid but short pre-season, so expect the Blades to be firm promotion contenders.

Another boost for the Blades will be the return of fans at full capacity because we will see whether their struggles last season were simply down to lack of crowds, or just simply issues in tactics because they finished last season with a strong but narrow win over Burnley in front of a 8K home crowd.

Birmingham City meanwhile struggled for goals throughout last season yet somehow survived despite producing the joint-lowest goal tally of just 37 goals, which looks to have been tackled in pre-season with strong attacking signings like Tahith Chong and Chuks Aneke.

This game therefore feels like it could be close as both teams look to get their campaigns off to a strong start, even though Sheffield Utd only played two pre-season friendlies but the home crowd should just about give them that much needed lift here.

Prediction: Sheffield United 2-1 Birmingham City

Result: Sheffield United 0-1 Birmingham City

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