Watford vs Sheffield United predictions: Blades can edge tough opener
Watford have appointed Rob Edwards in their bid to return to the Premier League at the first time of asking and they kick-start their campaign at home to Sheffield United tonight.
Edwards guided Forest Green to the League Two title last season but has left Rovers to take a jump up to the Championship with the Hornets, who finished runners-up in the second tier in 2020-21.
The Hertfordshire club finished 19th in the Premier League last term, having collected only 23 points from their 38 games, but enough quality remains to suggest they can be a force.
Sheffield United’s first effort back in the Championship last season saw them finish fifth, which resulted in them losing to Nottingham Forest in the play-off semi-finals, but they improved on the back of Paul Heckingbottom’s arrival and will fancy their chances of taking another step forward.
Edwards has so far managed to fight off the attention for Emmanuel Dennis and Ismaila Sarr while the Premier League-linked Daniel Bachmann has also stayed put at Vicarage Road.
Midfielder Imran Louza looks set to miss out through injury but Watford otherwise have a fully-fit squad to choose from, with new signings Mario Gaspar, Rey Manaj and Vakoun Issouf Bayo among those pushing for starts.
Sheffield United have not been so fortunate, however, and are missing a number of players with Jack O'Connell, Jayden Bogle, Adam Davies and Tommy Doyle all set to miss out through injury.
Billy Sharp and Oli McBurnie are pushing Rhian Brewster and Reda Khadra for a starting berth while Ciaran Clark and Anel Ahmedhodzic are in line to make their debuts.
The last two meetings between these sides have ended as draws and a repeat result would not be a disaster for either team given they both have the same ambitions of securing promotion.
Sheffield United may be the more settled of the pair given Watford are under new management and have seen a big turnaround in personnel.
The Blades finished last season strongly, winning their final three fixtures of the regular season, which included a 4-0 hiding of Fulham.
Both teams have scored in only one of the last seven meetings between the sides and with this being the opening match of a 46-game campaign, goals may be in short supply once more.
Watford won their final nine home games when last in the Championship in 2020-21 and are going to be a tough nut to crack at Vicarage Road, while Sheffield United were strong on their travels last term, losing only eight of their 23 away games.
Home advantage and a drop in class from the Premier League to the Championship means Watford are considered favourites to come out on top in their curtain-raiser.
However, Edwards has not had long to work out his best team and settle on his strongest XI so they may be vulnerable to Sheffield United.
The main concern for the Blades is their distinct lack of firepower as they managed only 63 goals in 46 games last season, managing just 25 goals in 23 outings on the road.
Given their defensive organisation, that improves the chances of a low-scoring encounter, which is of interest as 27 of Sheffield United’s 46 games last term featured two goals or fewer.
All things considered, Heckingbottom's men might have been underestimated for this clash and could be able to grind out a narrow win, with 1-0 the preferred margin of victory.