Blades can blunt Tigers

  • By: George Primarolo
  • Last Updated: April 13 2014, 16:10 BST

Our George Primarolo thinks Sheffield United will make life difficult for Hull in Sunday's FA Cup semi-final at Wembley.

Nigel Clough has been defensively minded of late
Nigel Clough has been defensively minded of late

Sunday's FA Cup semi-final clash sees the Premier League's Hull City take on Sheffield United of League One in a match that should be straight forward for Steve Bruce's men if their relative league positions are taken into account.

However, the layers don't think it will be that easy for Hull and it was slightly surprising to see them chalked up at 8/11 when prices were first issued for this match. That's not to say that the Blades don't have a chance in this game but I did expect the bookies to give the Premier League outfit a little more respect in the market.

Steve Bruce faces his old club on Sunday, having caused controversy in this competition in 1999 when he attempted to take Sheffield United off the pitch during their fifth round clash against Arsenal.

The match ended up being replayed following the incident, which saw Kanu score following a throw-in that should have seen the ball returned to the Sheffield United players, who had previously kicked it out so an injured player could be attended to.

Bruce is unlikely to try a similar trick here if his team are losing but he will certainly want to get one over on the first club he managed - especially as he left Bramall Lane under a cloud.

On the pitch though, there may not be too much between the sides despite their being two divisions between them.

The Blades have come a long way under Nigel Clough this season after he replaced former manager David Weir, who was sacked after a disastrous start to their League One campaign.

Weir got his managerial career off to the best possible start when the Blades beat Notts County on the opening day of the season but that was the sole highlight as they then went on to pick up just two points from their next nine league games.

Weir was sacked following United's Johnstone's Paint Trophy defeat against Hartlepool in October last year and Clough was appointed Blades' chief at the end of the same month.

The club have not looked back and have not only turned their league campaign around (they still have a slight chance of reaching the play-offs) but have also put together an impressive cup run, which has seen them knock out Premier League sides Aston Villa and Fulham en route to a Wembley semi-final.

Hull have held their own in the top flight this season and, while not quite mathematically safe just yet, will have to implode pretty seriously if they are to be relegated this time around. More column inches have been devoted to their proposed name change than their on-the-pitch antics during this campaign but they have quietly gone about their business and Bruce has them playing a decent style of football which has seen them claim the scalps of Liverpool and Newcastle this season, as well as thumping Fulham 6-0.

The Tigers have had an easier passage to the semis than their opponents this weekend and, while they were impressive in beating Sunderland in the last round, they took two attempts to get past Brighton in the fifth round and Sheffield United could certainly have had a trickier game in their attempt to get to their first FA Cup final since 1936.

The Blades will be looking at Harry Maguire and John Brayford (who was particularly impressive in the last round against Charlton) to keep it tight at the back while shrewd on-loan signing Conor Coady will provide the spark from midfield.

United haven't scored too many this season but the goals they have put away have come mainly from Chris Porter and Jose Baxter and the latter especially seems to have finally found his feet this season and has been putting in some eye-catching performances.

Shane Long is ineligible for Hull this weekend so boss Bruce is likely to start with Sone Aluko and Yannick Sagbo and try and utilise their pace to stretch the Blades defence. Matty Fryatt is also in the mix to make the starting XI but failed to make it off the bench against Swansea last weekend.

You could make a strong argument that the 8/11 offered about a Hull victory in 90 minutes is a pretty decent bet and if you fancy them strongly then I certainly wouldn't put you off. However, Nigel Clough has been quite defensively minded of late and Sheffield United have been building slowly from the back before being more adventurous in the second half.

I can see Clough aiming for a goalless draw at half-time and you get the distinct impression that he fancies his side to get something out of this game.

Obviously, if Hull get an early goal then he will have to adjust his tactics a little but his Blades side have enough ability to take the Tigers to extra time.

I expect United to be very difficult to break down in early on and the draw looks a fair price in a match which may be slightly more open than it looks on the surface.

  • Posted at 1830 BST on 10/04/2014.