Tim Stoodley looks ahead to the meeting with league leaders Sheffield United.
Peterborough United return to the ABAX Stadium as they face league-leaders Sheffield United this Saturday at 3pm.
The Blades are flying high in the League One table and sit two points clear of their nearest rivals, Scunthorpe, and impressively nine points clear of third spot. Despite their lofty league position though, their recent form has been hit-and-miss. The secured a thumping 4-0 demolition of AFC Wimbledon last weekend, but do have disappointing defeats to Fleetwood Town (0-2) and Walsall (1-4) in their recent history, with a stalemate against Gillingham to boot. There's no doubt they hit this tie as favourites though and goals are likely - Posh rarely fail to score at home and United are the leagues joint top-scorers.
You can expect The Blades to line-up in a 3-5-2. They play attacking wide midfielders - it's a tactical shape not too dissimilar from that shown by Chelsea this campaign, and it's having similar results. They're fluid, attack-minded and difficult to break-down. They favour possession over positioning and it makes them a nightmare to mark. Quick tempo and speedy ball movement are a hallmark in United's play this season and Posh will do well to keep their concentration levels peaked for the full ninety minutes.
There's a familiar name in the United line-up, with stalwart midfielder Paul Coutts preparing to face a return to The ABAX. The Aberdeen-born player began his professional career at Peterborough and has gone on to be one of Sheffield United's most capped players this season. He's a no-nonsense traditional midfielder that acts as the engine room of the five-man midfield. He's also chipped in with four assists this campaign and is street-wise on the ball.
Another practical Scotsman to pack out the middle-of-the-park for The Blades is Glaswegian John Fleck. He acts as a roaming midfielder, who is comfortable both in and out of possession. The 25 year spent four years at struggling Coventry, before making the move to Yorkshire, and he's proved to be one of the first names on the team sheet for the United management.
There's no doubting who Posh need to watch closely though, and that's front-man Billy Sharp. Born and raised in Sheffield, Sharp is at the club for the second time. It's a spell which has seen him lodge a goal nearly every other game. A 50% hit rate that can only be beaten by three Premiership players this season. He's the league's top scorer with 19 goals and will be only too happy to make it 20 come Saturday. He played in the reverse of this tie and although Posh kept him quiet on that day, he still requires special attention this time around.
Chris Wilder is Grant McCann's opposite number. Another member of staff who was born in Sheffield and has a certain affinity to the club. Despite only being at his fourth club, Wilder has built up a vast amount of experience in his travels. Saturday will be his 744th game and across the first 743 matches, he's attributed a win rate of 43% - for comparison McCann is currently at 45% from 42 matches.
Andy Haines is the man-in-the-middle for this one. He officiated Posh just last month as he took charge of the 1-1 draw away to Scunthorpe. Andrew Hughes, Ryan Tafazolli and Marcus Maddison all saw yellow that day. Across the whole of the season and Mr Haines has shown red on four occasions, while he averages exactly three cards per-game. He took charge of Sheffield United's away draw to Fleetwood back in October and is an experienced referee with ten years football-league familiarity to his name.
Sheffield United won 1-0 when these two sides met back in September. Nearly 20,000 fans saw what was a relatively uninspiring match-up. Matt Done was the only scorer against a Posh side which featured the likes of George Moncur and Deon Moore. Amazingly, these two sides have very sporadic history, with just five games being played before the turn of the millennium. Peterborough do not fare well against the Yorkshire outfit either - the duo have clashed just 14 times, with the blues only managing to win on three occasions. The remaining fixtures are split with two draws and nine Blades wins. Peterborough's most recent win came in January last year when they won 3-2 at Bramall Lane; Connor Washington, Martin Samuelson and Erhun Oztumer the scorers in that win.
Peterborough's injury list remains lengthy ahead of this one. Michael Bostwick, Jack Baldwin, Jermaine Anderson, Harry Anderson and Chris Forrester are all on the treatment table and at the time of writing, it is unknown whether two of them will return. New signings Craig Mackail-Smith and Anthony Grant will be hoping for a second successive start, while last week's hero, Junior Morias, will be pushing for some game time as a reward for his efforts against Port Vale.
League positions; Peterborough United - 8th Sheff Utd - 1st
Last five; Peterborough United - LWLLW Sheff Utd - WLDLW
Previous meeting; 17/09/2016 (League One) - Sheff Utd 1-0 Peterborough United
Average attendances (2015/16); Peterborough United - 5,447 Sheff Utd - 19,803
Top Scorer (league); Peterborough United - Gwion Edwards, Marcus Maddison & Tom Nichols (7) Sheff Utd - Billy Sharp (19)
Interesting fact: A study in the 2006/07 season showed that across the football league, Sheffield United have the most 'obsessed' fans, with supporters reportedly thinking about their team an average 110 times a day.
Due to high demand, this game has been made all-ticket. Tickets are on sale at www.theposhtickets.com, via the Ticketmaster hotline 0844 847 1934* and in person at the ABAX Stadium Box Office.
*calls cost 7ppm plus your network access fee.