Sheffield United v West Brom
Friday December 14, 19:45
Live on Sky Sports
Sheffield United earn vital victory
Two goals in the last 10 minutes saw Sheffield United beat managerless Reading and move up to third in the Championship last Saturday evening. The Blades saw first-half efforts from Conor Washington and David McGoldrick correctly ruled out for offside before Billy Sharp and an own goal settled matters in Berkshire.
Manager Chris Wilder wasn't impressed with his team's showing in the opening 45 minutes, and was given the response he was looking for thereafter. The United boss said, "The second-half was great but the first half, not so. A couple of changes - and a little bit of a reminder to the players at half time of the standards they've set - and I thought we came roaring back and fully deserved the victory."
Chris Basham saw his header cleared off the line, whilst Sharp nodded wide from 12 yards when unmarked before the Blades broke the deadlock. Victory was only the second league success in six for Wilder's charges, who are five points behind second-placed Leeds coming into the weekend.
West Brom fortunate against West Midlands rivals
Jay Rodriguez bundled in a controversial injury-time equaliser with his hand to give West Brom a share of the spoils in their entertaining West Midlands derby against Aston Villa last Friday night. The Baggies were twice forced to battle back from behind to earn their dramatic draw at The Hawthorns.
Dwight Gayle had levelled for Albion midway through the first-half, taking his tally to 10 Championship goals for the campaign. And his strike partner Rodriguez matched that feat when illegally bundling home despite Villa's vociferous protests and complaints towards referee Darren England.
In truth, Darren Moore's men were fortunate to escape with a point as Villa were guilty of missing excellent opportunities to extend their advantage. West Brom's second successive home stalemate in the space of five days saw the Baggies fall to fifth in the Championship table, six points adrift of automatic promotion.
Well-matched sides make the draw appealling
Sheffield United and West Brom are meeting in league football for the first time on Friday night since January 2010. The Blades haven't been beaten at Bramall Lane by Albion since 2004 when current Baggies boss Darren Moore scored both an own-goal and a goal for the visitors in a 2-1 triumph.
Leeds ended Sheffield United's eight-game unbeaten run here in the Championship last time out (W5-D3-L1). However, the Blades haven't lost successive Bramall Lane games in the same league season since September 2015 and head into this encounter as 2.3411/8 favourites.
West Brom 3.2011/5 arrive chasing a third consecutive league victory on the road for the first time since May 2008. However, since October's international break, Moore's men have W3-D3-L3 and performance data ranks these two teams neck-and-neck, making the draw an attractive play as the 3.65 outsider.
Market expects a high-scoring contest
Collectively, Sheffield United and West Brom are averaging 3.14 goals per-game, with 25/42 (60%) of matches featuring Over 2.5 Goals 1.738/11. Nevertheless, when we drill down into the duos respective home/away returns, fixtures are producing a lower 2.75 goals per-game return with only 10/20 (50%) breaking the Over 2.5 Goals barrier.
No Championship club has kept fewer clean sheets than Albion (1), whilst the visitors' encounters are generating a league-high 1.94 Expected Goals from open play per-game, suggesting an entertaining contest could be on the cards.
However, four of the Blades' most recent eight Bramall Lane outings have concluded with no more than a solitary strike, and so I'm happy to leave the goals markets alone.