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The City Is Ours?

Monday 20th February 2012
When the two Sheffield sides meet for the second time this season on Sunday afternoon in front of a packed Hillsborough it will be a clash between two former power houses of the English game. Placed second and third in the league, both are trying win bragging rights in the Steel City.

Being a League One game prevents this from being regarded as a blockbuster meeting, but the importance of the fixture in terms of league position is not up for debate. Both teams need the 3 points in order to continue the challenge for automatic promotion, fail to gather 3 points and they will not only lose further ground on Charlton, but also provide the likes of Huddersfield and MK Dons with the chance to close the gap on the automatic places.

Wednesday have been excellent at home this season with their only defeats at Hillsborough in the league being to Charlton and Stevenage. They have favoured a more direct style of football this season, making use of Chris O'Grady and Gary Madine's aerial prowess, whilst United have often remained patient, keeping the ball on the ground and leaving it until the second half before securing a game. The pitch at Hillsborough is wider than at Bramall Lane and also has a better playing surface, so it could play into United's hands being at Hillsborough despite the home support.

Tickets went on general sale for the game on Monday the 23rd of January and were sold out the following Wednesday, while tickets for away supporters were also sold out within days. A beam-back is being held at Bramall Lane and there are another 10,000 supporters expected. The total attendance across the two grounds is likely to be just short of 45,000, which will be bigger than all of the Championship fixtures and most of the Premier League games that weekend. It is a staggering level of support for football in the third tier of the game.

United have won three games in the last week, whilst Wednesday have lost their last four in all competitions scoring just once. Since their defeat to Charlton, United seem to have learnt how to win the tight encounters, with excellent wins at Huddersfield and then at home against Preston.  Wednesday were poor against Stevenage and showed little improvement at Chesterfield on Saturday. The form points to United, but, as with all derbies, the form book will go out of the window come 1.p.m on Sunday.

Ched Evans has been in good form in recent weeks, and the influence of Harry Maguire's partnership with Neil Collins has been priceless. United look likely to be without Kevin McDonald who picked up an injury against Preston, but old warhorse Nick Montgomery is a more than able deputy.  Wednesday have had a far from settled team recently, losing the influential Ben Marshall after his loan spell, whilst Gary Madine has struggled for form since his return from injury. They will rely heavily on Jose Semedo in the centre of midfield.

It is certain to be a monumental scrap between two of the former top clubs in English football who are straining to get back to the top, the result of which may go a long way to deciding who gains promotion this season, and possibly success in the long run.
Will Aitkenhead

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