With the first legs now completed, Boxing Day sees the Sky Bet Championship return legs kick off and our feature match sees Sheffield United meet Derby County at Bramall Lane in a Play-Off six pointer.
One point separate these teams in sixth and fifth respectively and victory here could very well be decisive in determining their festive momentum but also a Play-Off spot come May.
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Leon Clarke could start for Sheffield United after returning as a substitute from a nerve issue in Saturday’s draw at Ipswich.
Derby are continuing to assess striker, Tom Lawrence after the Welsh international missed Saturday’s clash with Bristol City through an ankle ligament injury.
Midfielder, Joe Ledley could feature after a successful run out for the U23s following a hip injury, despite not making the squad at weekend.
Bradley Johnson however is absent as he serves the last of a five match suspension and will be back for the Rams’ trip to Norwich at weekend.
Sheffield United’s form has slipped lately with two losses in between two wins before drawing at Ipswich on Saturday. The Blades however have scored in four of those matches, only failing to find the net at home to Leeds at start of this month.
Their home form has also dipped with just one win in last five either side of two draws before losing their last two, against Leeds then West Bromwich Albion. United however beat Norwich here in mid August, which is their only home win so far against fellow current top six with only Middlesbrough now yet to visit the Blades.
Derby meanwhile enter this with just three defeats in their last 15 league games and are unbeaten in five of last six matches.
Away from Pride Park, the Rams have scored in each of their last six away games since a 1-0 loss at Bolton in late September.
- Sheffield United are unbeaten in three of last five meetings with Derby (W2, D1, L2).
- Both teams have scored in last three meetings after three of previous four beforehand were won 1-0 by Derby.
- In this calendar year alone these two have met twice, drawing on New Year Day last season before Derby won 2-1 in October. The last time that this fixture was played three times in a single calendar year was 2004 where both teams took one win apiece and drew the other.
- Jack Marriott has scored four goals in four of Derby’s last six away trips, netting each of his goals in the first half with a result of three wins and a draw from those games in which he scored.
- Sheffield United’s Billy Sharp has scored two goals in his last three appearances with both coming in second half.
With so much at stake, I can see a tight cagey affair here but am going for a repeat of 2004 here and Sheffield United will take victory to end their recent shaky home form.
Prediction: Sheffield United 2-1 Derby County