Norwich head coach Daniel Farke has been impressed with how Sheffield United have adapted to the Premier League – but will not abandon his side’s own philosophy and start hitting long balls forward.
The Canaries edged the Blades in the battle for last season’s Sky Bet Championship title as both clubs made a return to the top flight.
Chris Wilder’s men have, though, proved one of the surprise packages of the new campaign, finding themselves in the top half of the table despite a 2-0 home defeat by Newcastle on Thursday night.
Norwich, meanwhile, remain very much in a scrap for Premier League survival, having seen a two-game unbeaten run end when losing 2-1 at Southampton in midweek.
Farke and Wilder had plenty of differences during the heat of last season’s promotion battle.
Nevertheless, the German coach admires what the Blades have produced so far ahead of Sunday’s showdown at Carrow Road.
“I’m full of respect for Chris Wilder’s work. They’ve had a brilliant start to the season,” Farke said at a press conference reported by the Norwich website.
“They have been settled at the back, have been able to play with almost the same starting line-up each week and are very solid in their defending.
“When you judge what happens with the promoted teams in the last 20/30 years, the teams are promoted by relying on good defensive structure.
“They have spent some money in their offence and this balance is quite a good mix for them, definitely.
“They are pretty unique in overloading the wings. It’s quite difficult to defend against.”
Farke saw his side trailing 2-0 at Southampton, with both goals coming from set-pieces.
A double substitution and tactical switch for the second half saw a much-improved display, but one which ultimately ended with no points to take on the long journey back to Norfolk.
The Norwich boss, though, is not about to give up on the passing game which swept them to promotion and instead just look to hit Finland forward Teemu Pukki at every opportunity.
“If we play with long balls, Teemu is a top-class striker, but he is not two metres tall,” Farke added.
“For us, it’s important to have a good positional structure and work with combinations. We don’t have the right type of players for long balls.
“With the ball, we were reacting too much to Southampton’s pressing and we weren’t aggressive enough.
“When you think about the last few games, we haven’t allowed the opponents to have many chances.
“They only really created chances out of set-pieces. Our problem was that we invited them onto us.”
Farke added: “Man City tried to press us and we were able to bypass them. We should stick to our principles and try and beat the press.”