Sheffield United: All you need to know about the race for the Championship play-offs

Eight games remaining. And every single one of them, as Paul Heckingbottom reminded before the international break, a cup final. Well, not exactly. But you know what he meant.

Monday, 28th March 2022, 7:04 am

Read More

Read More
Sheffield United: Meet the former Blade who helped bring a World Cup winner to E...

Sheffield United are on course to qualify for the Championship play-offs. But with only seven points separating them from West Bromwich Albion in 12th, Heckingbottom’s fifth-placed side know any slips, falls or stumbles could have potentially devastating consequences along the finishing straight.

As United prepare for this weekend’s return to action, with a potentially awkward assignment at Stoke, The Star’s James Shield analyses some of the other runners and riders chasing Premier League football.

Sheffield United

Unbeaten at Bramall Lane since October which, with the majority of their games being at home, should fill Heckingbottom’s side with confidence. That and the fact their injury crisis, with Filip Uremovic being signed from Rubin Kazan, appears to be easing. But it will be a major blow if leading goalscorer Billy Sharp misses any action after suffering a hamstring problem last time out. Even with Uremovic arriving, their fate could be decided in the treatment room rather than on the pitch.

Position: Fifth

Form Table: Eleventh

Sheffield United hope to be celebrating come the end of the Championship season: Alistair Langham / Sportimage

Points: 61

Goal Difference: +12

Games Remaining: 8

At Home: Five

Sheffield United will be hoping their captain and leading goalscorer Billy Sharp is available for the run-in: Ashley Crowden / Sportimage

On the Road: Three

PPG Average since February: 1.8

Blackburn Rovers

Have struggled badly since losing their best striker, Ben Brereton Diaz, to injury which, with Sharp undergoing treatment at Bramall Lane this week, will not have gone unnoticed at Bramall Lane. But the forward did report for international duty with Chile, which suggests he could be closing in on a return to action although the South American’s coaching staff have been coy about his conditioning following a recent training session.

Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom with new signing Filip Uremovic

Position: Sixth

Form Table: Fifteenth

Points: 61

Goal Difference: +10

Games Remaining: 7

At Home: Three

On the Road: Four

PPG Average since February: 0.7

Middlesbrough

Managed by Heckingbottom’s predecessor Chris Wilder, the Teessiders have a proven promotion winner at the helm. But it will be interesting to see how much their march into the FA Cup quarter-finals, where they were eventually beaten by Chelsea, has taken out of them. Particularly as they face top two Fulham and AFC Bournemouth next month. Paddy McNair sustained a bruised foot against the Londoners but is expected to be passed fit soon.

Position: Seventh

Form Table: Ninth

Points: 59

Goal Difference: +8

Games Remaining: Nine

At Home: Five

On the Road: Four

PPG Average since February: 1.5

Queens Park Rangers

The loss of Chris Willock and David Marshall, who has been replaced by former Sheffield Wednesday goalkeeper Kieran Westwood, has dealt a huge blow to their play-off hopes. Mark Warburton’s side face United twice between now and the end of the season, with the outcome of those games set to have a huge bearing on both teams’ seasons. Might be faltering at just the wrong time.

Position: Eighth

Form Table: Seventeenth

Points: 59

Goal Difference: +6

Games Remaining: Eight

At Home: Three

On the Road: Five

PPG Average since February: 0.8

Nottingham Forest

In form and with games in hand on everyone above them in the table other than second placed Bournemouth, Steve Cooper’s team will fancy its chances of finishing inside the top six. However, they still have to travel to third placed Luton Town and also Fulham and Bournemouth before the end of the season. All of those fixtures will be huge tests, and Cooper will be mindful of the fact fatigue could begin to creep in soon - both mental and physical. Not least because of the intensity of those contests.

Position: Ninth

Form Table: Second

Points: 58

Goal Difference: +18

Games Remaining: Ten

At Home: Four

On the Road: Six

PPG Average since February: 2.1

Millwall

Optimism is growing at The Den that this could be the season, after a series of near misses, that they finally qualify for the postseason knockouts. After facing Luton, Gary Rowett’s men will play against Swansea City, Barnsley, Preston North End, Birmingham City, Hull City and Peterborough United before rounding-off with a trip to Bournemouth. Organised and well-drilled, Rowett’s men have the characteristics to challenge. But do they have enough magic? We will soon find out.

Position: Tenth

Form Table: Sixth

Points: 57

Goal Difference: +3

Games Remaining: Eight

At Home: Four

On the Road: Four

PPG Average since February: 1.9

Coventry City

Capable of beating some of the best teams in the division - as they recently proved when United travelled to the Midlands - and then losing to some of the worst, City must address their inconsistencies if they are to earn a shot at promotion. One suspects, however, they have left themselves a little too much to do in order to hit that target.

Position: Eleventh

Form Table: Twentieth

Points: 55

Goal Difference: +3

Games Remaining: Eight

At Home: Three

On the Road: Five

PPG Average since February: 1.3

West Bromwich Albion

Steve Bruce’s appointment has not had the effect The Hawthorns’ hierarchy had hoped for when they brought in the former United, Newcastle and Wednesday manager earlier this year. Bruce’s men have improved of late and boast one of the best and most experienced squads in the competition. However, like Coventry, they probably have too many points to make up and too much traffic to plot a course through.

Position: Twelfth

Form Table: Twelfth

Points: 54

Goal Difference: +6

Games Remaining: Eight

At Home: Five

On the Road: Three

PPG Average since February: 1.0