Sheffield United host Sheffield Wednesday in this Friday night blockbuster which sees the first Steel City derby of the season.
Chris Wilder and his entertaining, attacking, free-flowing Blades will take on under pressure Jos Luhukay as his side look to spin round their recent fortune.
Wilder just continues to impress with his Sheffield United side who missed out on the play-offs last season. This term, they look very strong contenders for the top six and even contenders for the top two. After 16 games, they sit third in the Championship, just one point behind the two leading teams.
The Blades’ scintillating home form has been the foundation of their terrific start – they have the joint best home record in the league and they’ll be looking to take advantage of that against their fierce rivals this weekend.
Last time out, United suffered a setback at the hands of Nottingham Forest, losing 1-0 on the road. That followed a 4-2 win over Wigan and a respectable draw with Stoke City.
The Blades hold the bragging rights in this fixture after winning the away game and drawing the home fixture last season. Keeping hold of those bragging rights will be a huge motivation for the Blades this Friday night, as will the thought of moving top of the league, which they can achieve by winning, albeit Leeds and Norwich will have the chance to move back into pole position less than 24 hours later.
Billy Sharp has been key for Sheffield United again this season, scoring 10 times and this game will mean everything to him being a local lad. David McGoldrick has proved a shrewd signing, scoring five times so far. Leon Clarke has only netted once and he will be desperate to improve on that after having such a great season of last.
Mark Duffy and Jake Wright are the only injury doubts for this one.
Few Sheffield Wednesday fans will be looking forward to this one given their recent form, but form does often go out the window in derby games – Owls fans will be desperately hoping that is the case this weekend.
Wednesday sit 17th after 16 games, picking up just 19 points. The alarm bells aren’t quite ringing yet, especially with the Owls being just seven points off the play-offs with a vastly talented squad. However, that gap can widen very quickly in the Championship and sitting just four points from the bottom three, Wednesday need to get a move on if they hold serious hopes of finishing in the top six. Luhakay’s men showed no signs of picking up form last time out, suffering a 4-0 home defeat to in-form Norwich City. That made it four consecutive defeats following losses against Birmingham, QPR and Middlesbrough.
It’s a run that has seen them concede 12 goals in four games, scoring twice. The Owls have a score to settle after losing at home to United last season, they’ll feel they owe their neighbours one away from home. Though, with United’s home form, Wednesday have an awful lot to do if they want to secure the bragging rights in the first Steel City derby of the season.
Lucas Joao leads the scoring charts this season with five goals. Adam Reach has chipped in with four of the finest efforts from midfield, while Steven Fletcher has netted three. The Owls will be hoping to get Fernando Forestieri back from injury in time for this one, but it may come too soon. Marco Matias and Almen Abdi find themselves in the same position. Gary Hooper, Sam Winnall and Keiran Lee are all out with longer term injuries.
I can give all the facts and figures in the world, and over the season so far everything is pointing towards a big win for the Blades. However, as both sets of fans will know, form goes out the window on derby day and quite often it is both luck and sheer will power that proves to be the deciding factor.
Sheffield United 1 – 0 Sheffield Wednesday
I would go as far as saying this is the toughest game to call of the season, it really could go either way. Sheffield United in a rich vein of form and without a loss at home since the opening game of the season should be enough to see them take all 3 points. However, the Blades must be wary against complacency, it can be very easy to underestimate lower teams, especially so when they have such a fierce rivalry. It could go either way, but this is the most sensible and perhaps optimistic. 1 – 0.
Picture Credit: Sheffield United