Soccer / sheffield united
Sheffield United v West Brom Championship Preview
A Promotion battle takes centre stage on Friday night when promotion hopefuls Sheffield United and West Brom slog it out at Bramall Lane in a week 22 game of the English Championship. As the busy Christmas schedule approaches, maximum points are vital for both sides in their aim to play next season in the English top flight. While Sheffield United are 3rd in the league and West Brom 5th, both sides have taken 11 points from their last 6 league matches. The Baggies last point from the draw against Aston Villa came in debatable circumstances with a controversial late equaliser from Jay Rodriguez handing the Baggies a 2-2 draw with Villa. Replays seemed to prove the loose ball from his challenge with Villa goalkeeper Orjan Nyland was turned over the line by the striker’s arm in what is now being dubbed as the “Hand of Rod”. Sheffield United's game against manager less Reading last Saturday was a tight affair until 2 goals in the final 10 minutes ensured the Blades ended the evening in 3rd place. Manager Chris Wilder has been in charge of the Blades since May 2016 and oversaw promotion for his team from League one in his first season before a 10th place finish in the Championship last season. He will be in charge for his 126th game as Sheffield United manager on Friday. United have won 1, drawn 2 and lost 1 of their last 4 home games. That loss is their only one in the last 10 at home while they have only last 4 of their last 20 games. The Baggies have not lost in their previous 5 games and have won their last two away from home at Ipswich and Swansea, both by a 2-1 scoreline. They are the league’s top scorers with 44 goals in 21 games but also have the worst defence in the top 6 with 30 goals conceded and have failed to keep an away clean sheet all season. Jay Rodriguez and Dwight Gayle both have 10 goals after both strikers scored against Villa at the weekend. Darren Moore and his men have only lost 3 of their last 14 games on the road and will be hoping to extend an unbeaten run that has stretched to 5 games. The Baggies last league win away to United came in February of 2004. In that game, current manager, Darren Moore scored an own-goal and a goal in a 2-1 win for West-Brom. Both teams haven’t played each other in a league game since a 3-1 home win for West Brom in January 2010. Team News West Brom’s Bakary Sako lacks match-fitness and is a doubt to start this game. In his absence, the trio Gayle, Rodriguez and Harvey Barnes are likely to continue their partnership. Gareth Barry played the full minutes against Aston Villa and may start from the bench while James Morrison is available again for selection. Darren Moore has changed to a back 4 in their unbeaten run and is likely to stick with the formation. Leon Clarke has aggravated an unspecified previous injury and will be assessed for this game. If he isn’t fit enough, Billy Sharp could start alongside David McGoldrick. Verdict The race for promotion in the Championship is threatening to split into mini races and both these teams know a loss will add more weight behind that possibility. Darren Moore’s team are scoring freely while only Middlesborough and Nottingham Forest have a better defence than Sheffield United in the Championship. This game has all the makings of a draw.
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