Sheffield Wednesday v Sheffield United Monday March 4, 19:45 Live on Sky Sports
Sheffield Wednesday impress in midweek
Steven Fletcher's first double since April 2017 was enough to give Sheffield Wednesdayall three points against Brentford at Hillsborough in midweek, keeping outside hopes of a potential late dash to the play-offs alive amongst Owls supporters. The Scot struck either side after half-time as Steve Bruce's side extended their unbeaten run to seven games.
Brentford had their opportunities late on but were unable to beat Wednesday goalkeeper Keiren Westwood with the returning Fernando Forestieri, midfield lynchpin Barry Bannan and in-demand Adam Reach standing out in an impressive all-round effort. The 2-0 Owls triumph lifts Monday night's hosts into the top-half of the table, six points off the top-six.
Post-match, Bruce said "It was certainly the best performance since I've been at the club. From the first whistle to the last, I thought we were worthy winners. Some of the stuff we played and the way we worked was terrific. I can't fault them for their effort and endeavour." Top scorer Lucas Joao faces a late fitness test having missed out in midweek.
Sheffield United aiming for automatic promotion
Sheffield United picked up a vital victory last time out in their quest for automatic promotion by overcoming West Brom 1-0 at The Hawthorns. Kieran Dowell's winner gave the Blades a third successive win to keep Chris Wilder's troops within touching distance of Championship pace-setters Norwich coming into this weekend.
United kept Albion scoreless for the first time at home this term, whilst scoring inside the opening quarter following a flowing counter-attack. Wilder's men impressed thereafter, keeping the hosts at bay and looking the most likely to add to the scoreboard with Marvin Johnson and David McGoldrick coming closest to adding to their one-goal tally.
John Egan was forced off at half-time and replaced by Richard Stearman in the heart of the Blades' defence. Egan is set to undergo treatment ahead of Monday's match and is rated doubtful, whilst fellow defenders Martin Cranie, Jack O'Connell and George Baldock will all be assessed before kick-off leaving the visitors potentially depleted at the back.
Tight tussle anticipated
Sheffield Wednesday have suffered a sole reverse at Hillsborough against their arch-rivals in Steel City derbies since 2006 (W3-D1-L1), although the past two encounters between the two have concluded goalless. A third successive stalemate is rated as a 3.55 shot on Monday and has paid out in four of the Owls' seven meetings with top-six teams.
Wednesday are the 3.45 outsiders coming into the clash despite an obvious upturn in performances since Jos Luhukay departed before Christmas. The Owls have since W6-D5-L1 since, including picking up 14 points from a possible 18 on home soil (W4-D2-L0). Even so, Steve Bruce's side are still returning largely mediocre performance data during this time.
Sheffield United2.16 have W8-D2-L1 since Boxing Day, recording seven clean sheets in that 11-game sample. The Blades have churned out eight triumphs on their travels this term, although only one - against West Brom last time out - arrived against top-half teams. Nevertheless, Chris Wilder's charges top the away Expected Goals (xG) ratio table.
Few goals fancied at Hillsborough
Only three of Sheffield Wednesday's 12 ties since Jos Luhukay left have featured three or more goals with only four seeing both sides score. The Owls have tightened up in that time, shutting out seven Championship opponents and conceding more than one goal just twice. Half of those 12-matches have failed to feature more than a solitary strike.
Sheffield United's menacing forwardline has led to more regular goal-filled games - the Blades have scored twice or more 10 times on the road - although the guests have still seen only four of their last 11 outings produce Both Teams To Score profit. Such trends suggest supporting Under 2.5 Goals at 1.78 might offer some mileage.
Man In The Middle
Peter Bankes is the surprise choice to officiate Monday night's Steel City derby. The referee was previously involved in controversy while officiating a Sheffield Wednesday match at Hillsborough and is the only whistleblower to issue more than 100 yellow cards in the Championship so far in 2018/19.
Bankes averages 5.09 cards per-game in the second-tier this season and has already given nine penalties across his 21 matches at this level, suggesting plenty of drama could be on the cards when the two enemies lock horns at Hillsborough.
Mark O’Haire says: back the draw @ 3.55 in Sheffield Wednesday v Sheffield United