Weblog: The football punter

United to come out on top in Sheffield derby

Sky Bet Championship
Sky Sports Football, 7.45pm Friday

It has been a miserable 150th anniversary for Sheffield Wednesday's supporters.

They no longer have their famous stripes on their home kit, they are 16th in the Sky Bet Championship and they could be on the wrong end of a second defeat of the season at the hands of their bitter rivals Sheffield United.

New Wednesday manager Jos Luhukay could barely have asked for a more daunting debut than a trip into the lions den at Bramall Lane and the home faithful are fancied to be celebrating at full-time.

A win would take the Blades back into the top six and they are good enough to grab the glory as they seek a double over their neighbours following a 4-2 success over Wednesday in September.

United are not playing with the same swagger they showed earlier in the campaign, but they have bounced back well in recent games and put in an excellent performance in a 1-1 draw at Derby before a cup triumph at Ipswich.

Blades boss Chris Wilder, possibly sensing his team needed a boost, has been busy this week with Lee Evans, Ryan Leonard and James Wilson added to his squad.

Evans and Leonard will hopefully compensate for the long-term absence of Paul Coutts, while Wilson's loan capture from Manchester United adds another attacking dimension to the side.

Only top two Derby and Wolves have scored more goals than the hosts this term. Leon Clarke is the top goalscorer in the division with a tally of 15, while only runaway leaders Wanderers have won more home matches than United's tally of eight.

The Blades have missed Coutts but that is nothing compared to Wednesday's injury woes with Luhukay potentially missing an entire starting 11.

Wednesday, without a goal in their last three outings, have one win in their last 11 games and five of their last six league matches have finished in defeat.

It's all a far cry from the last two campaigns when Wednesday reached the playoffs. That target is unlikely to be hit this season with the Owls 13 points behind sixth-placed Leeds.

Luhukay was known as a promotion expert during his time in Germany, reaching the Bundesliga on three different occasions, and he was also seen as a tough disciplinarian who always put results before attractive football.

However, Luhukay has only had a couple of days to prepare the side and his patched-up outfit could struggle in the white-hot atmosphere with keeper Keiren Westwood, influential midfielders Sam Hutchinson and Barry Bannan and top goalscorer Gary Hooper among those who could be sidelined.

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Match in Focus

19:45 Fr 19Oct SKY

Sheff Wed v Middlesbro

Home WinDrawAway Win
Key stats
  • Middlesbrough have won four of their last five meetings with Sheffield Wednesday
Expert verdict
No side has shipped fewer goals in the Championship than Middlesbrough this term and their defensive resolve can give them the edge against playoff hopefuls Sheffield Wednesday. Tony Pulis’s team have lost just once on the road this season and the Owls are yet to keep a clean sheet in the league.