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Sheffield United’s road to survival – 5 must-win games in greatest escape bid

Chris Wilder’s men are 12 points adrift of safety with 11 matches remaining to save themselves.

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Chris Wilder’s Sheffield United team are up for the fight of Premier League survival (Joe Giddens/PA)

Chris Wilder’s Sheffield United team are up for the fight of Premier League survival (Joe Giddens/PA)

Chris Wilder’s Sheffield United team are up for the fight of Premier League survival (Joe Giddens/PA)

Sheffield United showed there is fight left in them yet after battling with 10 men for more than half an hour to win 1-0 against Aston Villa on Wednesday night.

It would still take a brave person to bet against Chris Wilder’s side being relegated from the Premier League, with a 12-point chasm left to bridge in the remaining 11 matches.

The PA news agency takes a look at five must-win games for the Blades if they are to have any chance of pulling off the greatest of escapes.

March 6, Southampton (H)

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Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl has seen his side slip from sixth spot to 14th place in the table after failing to win a Premier League game since January 4 (Paul Childs/PA)

Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl has seen his side slip from sixth spot to 14th place in the table after failing to win a Premier League game since January 4 (Paul Childs/PA)

Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl has seen his side slip from sixth spot to 14th place in the table after failing to win a Premier League game since January 4 (Paul Childs/PA)

The next game is always the most important, as the old adage goes, but in terms of building momentum and keeping the feel-good factor going after the battling win against Villa, another three points against the Saints is vital.

Southampton have lost eight of their last nine league games and are there for the taking. The Blades have not recorded back-to-back Premier League victories yet this season and Saturday would be the perfect time to start.

April 17, Wolves (A)

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Raul Jimenez (left) celebrates scoring in Wolves’ win at Bramall Lane on the opening weekend of the season (Peter Powell/PA)

Raul Jimenez (left) celebrates scoring in Wolves’ win at Bramall Lane on the opening weekend of the season (Peter Powell/PA)

Raul Jimenez (left) celebrates scoring in Wolves’ win at Bramall Lane on the opening weekend of the season (Peter Powell/PA)

A season of change at Molineux has been compounded by the long-term injury to Raul Jimenez. Wanderers have missed their talisman and leading goal threat and have struggled to recreate the back-to-back seventh-placed finishes of the past two seasons, having to settle for mid-table obscurity.

Nuno Espirito Santo’s side have been hit-and-miss this season, doing the league double over Arsenal and taking four points off Chelsea, but losing against West Brom and Crystal Palace and failing to beat Newcastle home or away. Wilder will hope the Blades catch Wolves on one of their off days.

April 24, Brighton (H)

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Brighton have lost their last two matches and are without a win in four Premier League games (Gareth Fuller/PA)

Brighton have lost their last two matches and are without a win in four Premier League games (Gareth Fuller/PA)

Brighton have lost their last two matches and are without a win in four Premier League games (Gareth Fuller/PA)

Graham Potter’s side are one which the Blades can potentially catch, so victory is a must. The Seagulls are just three points outside the relegation places and face a tricky end-of-season run-in, with matches against Leicester, Manchester United, Chelsea, Manchester City and Arsenal to come.

If Wilder’s men can remain in touch with the pack and then win against Brighton, it would pile huge pressure on their opponents and give the Blades an added boost.

May 8, Crystal Palace (H)

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Sheffield United players celebrate victory against Crystal Palace last season – they will be hoping to do the same in May (Tess Derry/PA)

Sheffield United players celebrate victory against Crystal Palace last season – they will be hoping to do the same in May (Tess Derry/PA)

Sheffield United players celebrate victory against Crystal Palace last season – they will be hoping to do the same in May (Tess Derry/PA)

Unlikely to be remembered as one of the season’s classic matches, it is though a very winnable game for the Blades. Palace are likely to be safe by this stage and with nothing to play for but pride.

Manager Roy Hodgson and 11 players are out of contract in the summer and Wilder will be hoping some of that uncertainty transmits on to the pitch against his team.

May 15, Newcastle (A)

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Good friends Chris Wilder and Steve Bruce will see their teams clash in what the former hopes will be a relegation six-pointer at the end of the season (Stu Forster/PA)

Good friends Chris Wilder and Steve Bruce will see their teams clash in what the former hopes will be a relegation six-pointer at the end of the season (Stu Forster/PA)

Good friends Chris Wilder and Steve Bruce will see their teams clash in what the former hopes will be a relegation six-pointer at the end of the season (Stu Forster/PA)

If the Blades can take their fight to this stage, that in itself would be a remarkable achievement given their current predicament. The Magpies are another team, like Brighton, who Wilder’s men can potentially chase down.

Newcastle have slid alarmingly towards the drop zone after just two wins in 15 Premier League games and they too face a daunting end to the campaign, with matches against Tottenham, West Ham, Liverpool, Arsenal, Leicester and Manchester City to come.

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