Yorkshire rivals Sheffield United and Leeds haven't enjoyed a huge amount of success through the winter but who'll take top honours when the duo lock horns at Bramall Lane? Mark O'Haire previews the encounter...
"Sheffield United’s matches have been low-scoring of late with the Blades firing blanks in five of their previous nine encounters, four of which produced Under 1.5 Goals winners, including their last three at Bramall Lane."
Sheffield United v Leeds
Saturday 10th February, 12:30
Live on Sky Sports
Sheffield United suffering
Since hitting the top of the Championship table immediately after the November international break, Sheffield United have lost their way. The Blades have bagged just two victories in 13 (W2-D4-L7) and were convincingly beaten 3-0 by runaway league leaders Wolves at Molineux last weekend.
Chris Wilder's charges barely laid a glove on the table-toppers, firing in just six efforts at goal and managing a sole shot on-target. Goalkeeper Simon Moore saw red with United two goals down and the defeat saw the Blades drop down to eighth and five points adrift of the play-off places.
Starlet David Brooks returned from glandular fever for Sheffield United's U23s in midweek but looks unlikely to be rushed back into first-team action. Elsewhere, Ched Evans is back in contention, young stopper Jake Eastwood will be handed the gloves but long-term injury victim Paul Coutts remains sidelined.
Heckingbottom arrives at Leeds
Leeds sacked Thomas Christiansen after just eight months in charge of the Whites on Sunday following a 4-1 home defeat to Cardiff. United are10th in the Championship, having failed to win since Boxing Day, and dismissed the Dane with the fallen Premier League giants now seven points off the top-six.
Paul Heckingbottom is the new man in charge and will be hoping for a drastic improvement on last Saturday's efforts. Leeds saw Gaetano Berardi sent off during a nightmare first 45 minutes in which they entered the interval 3-0 down. Sol Bamba's own goal briefly stirred the Whites but they were second-best throughout proceedings.
Centre-half Pontus Jansson was stretchered off against Cardiff and will now join an unavailable list that includes fellow defenders Berardi, Liam Cooper, Conor Shaughnessy, Luke Ayling, midfielders Kalvin Phillips and Eunan O'Kane plus playmaker Samuel Saiz.
Sheffield United [1.91] are odds-on favourites for this showdown and with Leeds without a host of key components and the Blades' W8-D2-L5 home return deserving maximum respect, it's difficult to take the plunge on Chris Wilder's charges at such short quotes.
The hosts' only success in seven Bramall Lane outings came against rock-bottom Sunderland with Wilder's men failing to score in each of their most recent three on home soil, against Aston Villa, Sheffield Wednesday and Bolton.
Paul Heckingbottom's arrival could lift Leeds [4.80] and the visitors certainly appear overpriced in the pre-match markets considering they've W3-D1-L2 in their past six away days. However, the Whites fired blanks in their past three road trips and that crippling injury and suspension list can't be ignored.
The final embers of Thomas Christiansen's reign at Leeds weren't particularly prolific for goals-based punters. A chunky six of their last nine games featured fewer than two goals, including each of their past three games as guests.
Sheffield United's matches have been similarly low-scoring of late with the Blades firing blanks in five of their previous nine encounters, four of which produced Under 1.5 Goals winners, including their last three at Bramall Lane.
With the duo failing to score in 9/30 (30%) of their respective home/away Championship ties this term, the derby nature, plus the obvious recent penchant towards low-scoring contests, I'm happy to back Under 2.5 Goals at [1.73].
Staked: 112.00 pts
Returned: 128.21 pts
P/L: +16.21 pts