Sheffield United v Sheffield Wednesday (Bramall Lane, 1945 BST, Sky Sports Main Event)
The first Steel City derby of the season sees United take on Wednesday with the hosts aiming to return to the top of the Sky Bet Championship table.
The Blades are a point behind Leeds and Norwich, while Wednesday sit all the way down in 17th with just five wins from 16.
Pressure is mounting on Jos Luhukay. A run of three wins in four in August/September proved to be a false dawn as they have lost their last four, conceding 12 goals in the process.
That doesn’t bode well against the third-highest scorers in the division, and you imagine United will be up for this game given the two sides’ contrasting form.
Billy Sharp will be well equipped to get himself onto the scoresheet given his terrific return in front of goal this season, but the value is certainly there on backing Chris Basham to find the net.
The defender signed a new contract with the club in midweek, and he should return to the starting XI having served a one-match suspension against Nottingham Forest.
He has two goals and one assist on his tally already, highlighting his attacking intent despite lining-up as a centre-back. He is a threat from set-pieces, but it’s his efforts from open play that catch most teams out.
Chris Basham in action against QPR
Basham is given the freedom to drive forward and contribute at the other end of the pitch. His goal against Derby highlights how his starting position doesn’t restrain him from scoring.
An overlapping run from the right saw him unmarked at the back post to connect with a John Fleck cross, his final position being at the edge of the six-yard box.
What that highlights more than anything is that freedom on the pitch, and the fluid style of play that is allowed to some players if it helps the team to grab victory.
It’s a style of play that has maybe gone under the radar a bit and isn’t getting the credit it deserves. The Blades are an entertaining team to watch, looking to work the ball into attack before scoring.
Blades boss Chris Wilder told the Sheffield Star: “I enjoy watching my team, where they’ve come from and how they go about it.
“On the whole, I think they’ve been outstanding. Obviously we’ve had to take things on the chin but what these players are doing, how they’re doing it and what they’re giving to the football club, I think it should be proud of them too.”
Another mention for Jack O’Connell to strike in this one. He hit the crossbar when I tipped him a couple of weeks ago, and his 14 shots on goal is amongst the highest in this Sheffield United squad.
The Blades have seen 27 corners in their favour in their last three home encounters. Compare that to the 18 that Wednesday have conceded away and it’s likely that there will be a few opportunities for the centre-backs to pounce from set-pieces.
Jack O’Connell can strike for the Blades
O’Connell has one goal and one assist already, and given the amount of chances he is seeing, he should add to to those numbers throughout the season.
In terms of cards, the last meeting between these two saw five yellows and a red and referee Andy Madley has shown at least three yellows in multiple games so far throughout the current campaign.
For the hosts, Mark Duffy is another player set to return to the starting XI. He has two goals and three assists this season but his 14 fouls this season puts him amongst the most for the Blades.
He is yet to receive a card this season but eventually he will be pulled up given the number of fouls conceded. In a hostile atmosphere, the occasion could see some late challenges.
Joey Pelupessy is second in the charts for fouls committed by a Wednesday player with 21. In similar fashion to Duffy, the midfielder only has one card on his tally, but this game should see that double.
It’s set to be an entertaining local derby, but one in which the hosts should leave with all three points on offer. United have scored at least three goals in three of their last six home games and you’d fancy them to make it four from seven on Friday night.
Score prediction: Sheffield United 3-1 Sheffield Wednesday (Sky Bet odds: 12/1)
Billy Sharp celebrates after scoring away at Blackburn