It’s been a contrasting year for Middlesbrough and Sheffield United.
While one suffered a miserable relegation from the Premier League, the other is still revelling in jubilation after their promotion to the second tier, ahead of tomorrow’s Championship clash at the Riverside.
For new Boro manager Garry Monk, Saturday’s late kick-off will be seen as a huge opportunity to notch up a first win at his new club, especially after his side were defeated away at Wolves on the opening day.
United, meanwhile, registered a 1-0 victory over Brentford a week ago, and manager Chris Wilder will surely be relishing the opportunity to test his side against the pre-season promotion favourites.
Monk will no doubt receive time to apply his methods in the North East after being heavily backed in the transfer market by chairman Steve Gibson.
Even so, after a busy summer, there are high expectations on Teesside, with promotion the ultimate aim.
Monk will be forced to make at least one change from the side which lost 1-0 at Wolves last weekend.
Midfielder Marten de Roon won’t feature, after the 26-year-old was given permission to speak to his former club Atalanta about a return to the Italian club.
Adam Forshaw is a possible replacement in the 4-3-3 system that Monk deployed at Molineux. Patrick Bamford could also return after starting on the bench last weekend.
Wilder made eleven changes to his side in the EFL Cup on Tuesday night, as the Blades came from 1-0 down to beat League One Walsall 3-2 at Bramall Lane.
New arrivals John Lundstram, Nathan Thomas, Jake Bennett and goalkeeper Simon Eastwood all received their first starts for the club, however they could be rotated out for the Championship fixture.
Striker James Hanson is a doubt for the game after picking up a hamstring injury in midweek.
What's been said
Despite losing on the opening day, Monk remains upbeat about Boro’s chances.
“We were disappointed with the result at Wolves last week but I wasn’t unhappy with the players at all,” said the Boro manager in Thursday’s pre-match press conference.
“But it’s about what’s coming next. We’ve had a really good week and some important training sessions.
“The attitude has been really good from the players and they’ve been focused on what’s coming ahead of us this weekend,” he added.
After Tuesday’s win, Wilder admitted that he was disappointed with the Blades’ first half performance but pleased with how his sides improved.
“We were disappointed with our standards in the first half, we were too slow,” he said.
“We got stuck into them at half-time and they performed better in the second half. We changed the shape around, got on the front foot and finally started causing them problems.”
Boro have lost just two of their last 16 meetings against the Blades, winning 10 and drawing four.
The last time that the sides met was in 2011 when the Teessiders won 2-1 at Bramall Lane, courtesy of goals from Matthew Bates and Marvin Emnes.
United striker Billy Sharp has netted more goals than anyone else in the Football League since the start of the 2016/17 season.
Even so, the Blades haven’t scored in their last two games at the Riverside.