Alan Biggs: More pressure on Sheffield Wednesday than United in Steel City Derby

Owls boss Carlos Carvalhal and United manager Chris Wilder
Owls boss Carlos Carvalhal and United manager Chris Wilder
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The view from the top of my fence is a little higher than before after some essential maintenance work in the past few days. But when it comes to a Sheffield derby things seldom stack up.

For instance, widespread predictions of a close game, too tight to call, would seem to contradict Sheffield Wednesday splashing more on one player this summer, £4m Joost van Aken, than Sheffield United expended on ten. The Owls previous cash signing, Jordan Rhodes, cost £8m.

It’s why S6 obviously and irrefutably carries more pressure into this first derby for five years than S2, especially with it happening at Hillsborough.

The gulf in expenditure highlights the scale of Chris Wilder’s achievement in having the Blades sixth in the Championship, two points and three places above their rivals. But let’s not forget that this is an Owls team competing at the top end for the third successive season. Spending power, yes, but staying power also.

There’s huge emphasis on the collective at Bramall Lane, as there has to be with such relatively low spending, but let’s not overlook either that Wednesday also display a strong sense of unity, regardless of the number of reputable individuals Carlos Carvalhal has to keep happy.

Equally, it would be a huge mistake for anyone to imagine United lack individual quality.

Few defences have proved tighter so far, a relentlessly resourceful five-man midfield attacks powerfully from wide positions and, of course, Billy Sharp just keeps scoring. His fitness or otherwise is huge.

Tough week for United; disciplinary issues and, incredibly, five strikers battling injury. But they have the man for adversity in Wilder.

Wednesday, as a whole, have as formidable an array of strikers as any in the Championship and there is no better midfielder than Barry Bannan. Every player is, or should be, more than comfortable at the level. United don’t lack for proven experience either, though you’d have to say that on paper the Owls should be better man-for-man.

Systems? Well, roughly it’ll be 4-4-2 against 3-5-2. But that shouldn’t matter as much as attitude and approach. One thing I think you can guarantee is that, as always, United will really go for it. No trying to frustrate and catch on the break. They’ll look to gain an advantage from the off and unmistakably go for the win. It’s a mind set that has worked so well for them since Wilder took over. Canny Carvalhal will tailor his tactics accordingly, perhaps looking to tease out control, while the crowd’s focus has been more on a need for aggression from the first whistle. Fascinating.

As a club and fans, United may relish the occasion just that little bit more as the side on a roll after six long years in League One.

Then again, there’s that tingle of a new experience for Carvalhal – just as it will be for every player on the field. How will they react to an atmosphere like no other?

So you call it – if you dare.