Sheffield United defender Neill Collins expects today’s fixture with Bristol City to be a hard-fought affair despite the fact both clubs have made disappointing starts to the new season.
And Collins, who expects to feature despite undergoing treatment for injury, acknowledged this afternoon’s match at Ashton Gate represents a pivotal moment in the visitors’ campaign.
United remained 23rd in the League One table when they were beaten by Gillingham last weekend and Collins said: “I think the competition is stronger this year than last season. There is no question about that.
“The teams who have come up and the teams who have come down have made it a lot stronger. Bristol are in a different position to us because they have come down from the Championship and have still got a very high quality squad.
“We have been in this league for three years and our squad has changed drastically. They will be more disappointed with the respect to the wage bill they have probably got.
“But they are in a very, very false position. They have got a very good manager and players, especially attacking players.
“I think Saturday will be one of our toughest games, regardless of the league position. We know, with the players they have got, we are in for a tough game.
“Things haven’t gone for either of us. We will see where we both are after the next 15 games. Hopefully we will both be much further up the table.”
City, four places higher in 19th, could include midfielders Scott Wagstaff and Joe Byran in their squad after both missed the 1-1 draw with Tranmere Rovers due to knee and ankle complaints respectively.
Head coach Sean O’Driscoll also hopes to extend Karleigh Osborne’s loan from Millwall ahead of Thursday’s deadline for emergency signings.
“Scott is back out on the training pitch and, fingers crossed, he will be okay,” O’Driscoll said. “He has been running fine and it is now up to whether he can twist and turn. We’ll leave that to the last minute and then assess him.”
“We wanted to make sure Joe’s haemotoma was not calcifying, so sent him to hospital as a precaution,” O’Driscoll added. “But everything seems to be okay in that regard.”
Collins, who sported a protective headband during the meeting with Peter Taylor’s side after sustaining a knock against Shrewsbury Town, has also been struggling with a calf muscle problem.
“I’ve got two big stud marks down it as well,” he said. “But I’ll be fine.
“I am feeling a lot better. It is one of those things that happens.
“It is just part and parcel of being a footballer. You pick up these things. Sometimes you can go through spells and be absolutely fine and other times you can pick knock after knock. It is part and parcel of the games.”
“Our next 10 games come pretty thick and fast,” he added. “It is going to be important.
“We need to go on a run of unbeaten games. We have got to start giving ourselves an opportunity to get up the table.
“We have done it in the past. We have to start stringing results together, which we are more than capable of but saying it and doing it are two different things. This is an important period.”