It’s here at last, the big one, but the big question could well be whether the first Steel City derby clash of the season goes ahead in light of the recent downpour.
Wednesday officials saw their FA Cup clash with Derby postponed in midweek due to the rain and have acted quickly by propping covers over the Hillsborough pitch to make sure the game goes ahead.
And whether it be rain, wind, or shine, Owls’ fans will be desperate to bag all three points to ensure bragging rights on Monday morning…
Lee Bullen told the Sheffield Star:
‘We all have our fingers crossed that the game is going to go on.
‘Our lads are really looking forward to the game, and I’m sure United’s are.
‘As well as being a derby, it’s important to us because of where we are in the league.
‘There’s no better way to kick-start your season than by beating your local rivals.’
‘I think people would say that United have had a disappointing season, considering the expectations that surrounded them at the start of the season. But they’re still not far off the play-offs.
‘They had a great win against QPR last Saturday; I think that will have given them a lift for this game.
‘You only have to look at their squad; the lads who are being left out are quality players who would get a game in the majority of Championship sides.
‘One our day, we can match the best teams in this league.
‘We’ve beaten the likes of Stoke, and drew at West Brom, who in my opinion are the best team we have played this season.’
‘We’ve run a lot of the so-called contenders very close.’
Bryan Robson told the Sheffield Star:
‘My players are looking forward to it. They’ve looked bright in training and I’m pleased with what I’ve seen from them.
‘You’ve got to be passionate and determined and give your all.
‘But you’ve also got to be controlled and use your football intelligence.
‘I’ve been involved in plenty of derbies before as a player and as a manager and I’ve seen people lose their cool.
‘More often than not they’re the ones who end up losing the game.’
Wednesday Team News:
Fans may have been disappointed at the midweek postponement of the Owls’ FA Cup 3rd Round replay against Derby County due to the bad weather but boss Brian Laws could well have been pleased with the announcement, which means his charges have that extra bit of freshness going in to the Stee City derby clash.
Wednesday will have no fresh injury concerns going in to the clash and the midweek break will mean strike duo Francis Jeffers and Akpo Sodje will both undergo late fitness tests to be involved on Saturday.
Should the duo fail to recover, Leon Clarke is set to get the nod to continue in attack while Deon Burton could well earn a recall after his poor performances of late.
The only major doubt for Brian Laws is the fitness of Steve Watson, who will be desperate to play some part, with Ronnie Wallwork also chomping at the bit and could take Watson’s place.
Player to watch: Lee Grant
First and foremost, without trying to make it a negative choice, we all know how important goalkeepers have been for us in Sheffield derby matches before, with King Kev a prime example, and no doubt Grant will have to be on top form to thwart the United attack.
United Team News:
Blades’ boss Bryan Robson could well stick with the same side that came from behind to defeat an in-form QPR 2-1 at Bramall Lane last week, with no fresh injury worries going in to the game.
United will still be without key duo James Beattie, who picked up a knee injury on Boxing Day, and defender Chris Morgan who is also sidelined through injury.
Beattie has been a key figure in the Blades campaign thus far this season but the return of former Leeds man Rob Hulse couldn’t have come at a better time, with the target man likely to start at Hillsborough.
Former Wednesday target Billy Sharp could well get a run out in the red and white while former Owl Derek Geary will be keen to put one over his former employers in a big atmosphere at S6.
Player to watch: Rob Hulse
Hulse’s return to the United line-up couldn’t have come at a better time given the injury to fellow striker James Beattie, and the target man will prove a real threat to the Owls’ goal, especially from set pieces.
Match Facts & Stats
Wednesday wins: 37
United wins: 44
Last Time Out:
Wednesday 1-2 United
Steve Maclean’s spot kick with ten minutes to go wasn’t enough to stop the Owls falling to a 2-1 defeat on home soil against the promotion-hunting Blades. Michael Tonge bagged the opener for Neil Warnock’s men on 38 minutes before Ade Akinbiyi added a second on 45 minutes, which proved decisive.
Wednesday: Grant, Bullen, Hinds, Beevers, Spurr, Whelan, O’Brien, Esajas (Johnson 40), Watson (Wallwork 46), Tudgay, Clarke (Burton 75). Subs Not Used: Wood, Small.
United: Kenny, Bromby, Kilgallon, Armstrong, Geary (Gillespie 84), Carney, Hendrie (Stead 69), Speed, Tonge, Hulse, Sharp (Shelton 90). Subs Not Used: Montgomery, Lucketti.
v Derby County (H FA Cup 3rd) – 22/01/08
v Wolverhampton Wanderes (A) – 29/01/08
v Ipswich Town (H) – 02/02/08
v Bristol City (A) – 09/02/08