After three months away, Newcastle United return to Premier League action against an overachieving Sheffield United side that had a head start with their game in hand at Aston Villa in midweek.
Steve Bruce has done a good job with the Magpies in terms of results and is actually on course to break Rafael Benitez’ points totals in charge. 13th, they’re eight points clear of the relegation zone and surely have enough points on the board to stay up.
But it’s in the underlying numbers and performance data that should be of concern for the Toon Army; they’re vastly overperforming their xG (expected goals numbers) with the algorithm suggesting they’re consistently unable to create good chances, while they’ve been somewhat fortunate the opposition haven’t been able to take theirs.
They’re actually bottom of the table when it comes to “expected points” which is extrapolated from expected goals for and against - bottom for expected goals scored and fourth-bottom in goals against.
The bookmakers evidently take such underlying data into account, and make Sheffield United favourites at St. James’ Park, at odds of 13/10.
Newcastle actually came away with a 2-0 win at Bramall Lane from the reverse fixture back in December, in which Jonjo Shelvey capitalised on some VAR confusion to score and wrap up the result midway through the second half.
But Chris Wilder’s Blades have been a different proposition on the road this season. They admittedly only won four of 14 away games before the break, but are exceptionally tough to beat with seven draws away - they’ve only lost two away games, and those were at runaway top two Liverpool and Manchester City.
We recommend backing Blades to come away with a win here. They’ve been ahead of Newcastle this season in terms of actual results and underlying data. You can back them to win at 13/10, or exponentially boost those odds with both teams to score at 11/2
*All prices correct at the time of writing and subject to change