Bookmakers are thinking the unthinkable for Newcastle United against Sheffield United

Defeat is unthinkable for Newcastle United fans, though the bookmakers think otherwise.

Monday, 11th January 2021, 12:30 pm

The bookies favour winless Sheffield United at Bramall Lane tomorrow night.

Steve Bruce’s side will take on a team which has taken just two points from a possible 51 so far this season.

The club, surprisingly given that it finished an impressive ninth last season following promotion from the Championship, is on course for the worst Premier League campaign on record.

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And manager Chris Wilder is under pressure ahead of the game, despite a weekend FA Cup win over Bristol Rovers. Bruce, of course, is also under pressure despite a far better points haul.

Newcastle, on 19 points, are almost halfway to safety and the club is eight points above the relegation zone, though supporters worry that the team, which has scored one goal from open play in its last six games in all competitions, is going the wrong way at a pivotal part of the campaign.

Bruce, still looking to get the balance right between defence and attack, has tried to get his team higher up the pitch in recent games.

“Yeah, rather than sitting deep and playing off a low block, if that’s what you want to call it,” said United’s head coach when asked about his tactics after Saturday’s FA Cup defeat to Arsenal.

Steve Bruce.

“It’s to try and get higher up the pitch. Of course, that’s always the difficult part. To win a game you’ve got to score a goal. We had chances (against Arsenal), but weren’t able to take them.

“That’s the positive for me. We’re trying something different, and it nearly paid dividends.”

Supporters – who remember that Newcastle were the only team to lose to Derby County, the worst Premier League side of all time, in the 2007/08 season – don’t see too many positives ahead of the game at Bramall Lane, the scene of 2-0 win for Bruce’s side last season.

Bruce, still without winger Allan Saint-Maximin, desperately needs Callum Wilson back after the striker – who has scored eight of the club’s 10 top-flight goals this season – missed the Arsenal tie, but that will be down to the club’s medical staff.

Defensively, United, beaten by two extra-time goals at the Emirates Stadium after a goalless 90 minutes, have been better of late, but Bruce's team needs to be better, much better, in the final third of the pitch.

If Wilson isn’t available, who plays up front? Andy Carroll played well against Arsenal, but didn’t take his chances. Joelinton played ahead of Dwight Gayle at the Emirates Stadium, but did little in the final third to justify his selection.

Bruce knows that the backlash that would inevitably follow a defeat at Bramall Lane, where he started his managerial career more than 20 years ago.

The bookies have made Wilder’s team favourites, despite their woeful record.

They’ve obviously looked closely at the team’s goalscoring record, and if that doesn’t improve, then 15th-placed Newcastle will soon find themselves much deeper in relegation trouble.

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