Sheffield United v West Brom
Wednesday February 9, 19:45
Sheffield United in fine recent form
Sheffield United made it seven wins in nine Championship matches as they came from behind to beat Birmingham last Friday with goals from skipper Billy Sharp and defender Jayden Bogle at St Andrew's. Victory moved the Blades up to 10th in the table - with games in hand - as their transformation into realistic promotion contenders gathers pace.
Paul Heckingbottom's charges conceded midway through the second period, although the deficit lasted just three minutes before Sharp latched onto Sander Berge's neat pass to thread home a leveller. And on 74 minutes, the Blades went ahead as John Fleck played in Bogle, who timed his run to evade the linesman's flag and slot home the eventual winner.
Speaking post-match, Heckingbottom said: "A real good win, the fact that we fell behind and the way we responded, I felt we deserved it. We've now put ourselves into an even better position to go on from this. We're delighted where we are."
The Blades will require a slight reshuffle ahead of the midweek match-up. Rhian Brewster is set to miss the rest of the campaign, with Billy Sharp and Iliman Ndiaye likely to continue in attack but Conor Hourinhane could return in midfield. Elsewhere, Morgan Gibbs-White is back in full training and should feature at some stage.
Bruce replaces Ismael at West Brom
West Brom parted company with boss Valerien Ismael last week following a poor run of results that culminated in a 2-0 defeat at Millwall, as well as widespread criticism over the club's style of football. After a flying start to the campaign, Albion won only eight of their last 24 fixtures, whilst taking 14 points from a possible 39, with goals also drying up.
The Baggies moved quickly to appoint Steve Bruce as their new manager, hoping the 60-year-old chief could engineer a fifth career promotion to the Premier League. And Bruce has been keen to get to work, saying. "Let's be brutally honest - we have a squad which is as good as any in the Championship. I'm convinced of that, despite the bad results."
WBA are expected to shift systems ahead of Wednesday night's contest. Under Ismael, Albion preferred a 3-4-3 formation with Andy Carroll making his debut from the off in the Millwall match, starting alongside Matt Phillips and Karlan Grant in attack. Callum Robinson and Semi Ajayi could be recalled here with Jayson Molumby also hoping to be involved.
Fixtures between Sheffield United and West Brom have traditionally been competitive affairs with the Blades and Baggies sharing an equal W8-D3-L8 return across their past 19 league meetings since 1998. Albion were 4-0 winners in the reverse back in August and the away side have also taken top honours in three of their past six trips to Bramall Lane.
Sheffield United 2.466/4 are finding form in the race for the top-six. The Blades boast an excellent W7-D3-L2 in Championship outings since November's international break with Paul Heckingbottom's troops sitting fifth on Expected Points (xP) across the whole season. However, United have only managed W3-D5-L5 when facing top-half outfits this term.
West Brom 3.259/4 earned 13 points from a possible 15 in August but have since posted W8-D8-L8 to fall eight points off the automatic promotion places. The Baggies have managed only W3-D5-L5 in their most recent 13 league dates, with away form really suffering; Albion have managed a solitary Championship success on the road since September (W1-D2-L7).
Sheffield United have kept their sheets clean in six of their most recent 10 league tussles, a sample that includes three straight shutouts on home soil. Bramall Lane encounters are averaging 2.55 goals with Over 2.5 Goals 2.285/4 backers collecting in 45% of fixtures, however, Wednesday's match-up could be a tight affair considering the circumstances.
West Brom's games have averaged only 2.00 goals per-game - the second-lowest figure in the division - with 9/15 (60%) road trips producing fewer than three goals. Steve Bruce will keen to address an Albion side that's fired blanks in eight of their last 12, although building on a reasonable defensive base will remain a priority for the new boss.
With that in mind, it may be worth snapping up the 1.9520/21 on Both Teams To Score 'No'. A chunky 19/29 (66%) of WBA matches have paid out already in this market, including 10 of 15 on their travels. Meanwhile, only five of Sheffield United's 11 home ties have seen goals at both ends, with seven of the Blades past 10 paying-out profit on BTTS No wagers.