THE BIG MATCH

Sheffield United and Tranmere Rovers have been two of the stand-out teams so far in npower League 1 and they meet at Bramall Lane on Saturday.

Rovers currently top the division, while the Blades lie third, with Doncaster Rovers sandwiched between the two.

Tranmere and Doncaster both have 40 points, while United are on 39 points, meaning this game will be significant in deciding who sits at the summit of the division come full-time on Saturday.

A win for the travelling Rovers is likely to be enough for them maintain top spot, but a victory for the Blades could move them up to first, providing Doncaster fail to beat Coventry City.

And Sheffield United boss Danny Wilson is confident his side has what it takes, telling the Star: "When we are firing on all cylinders then we are very difficult to handle.

"And, with that in mind, our preparation focuses on what we can do ourselves rather than changing drastically for the opposition. As ever, though, we always afford them the necessary respect.

"Did I think they [Tranmere] would be top? If I'm honest then the answer is 'no' but we are prepared to go head-to-head with them for the rest of the season.

"I don't see any reason why Tranmere can't last the course. The fact they are where they are shows what a good manager Ronnie [Moore] is."

Despite their lofty positions, both sides actually come into the match in relatively poor form - United with one win in three and Tranmere winless in four, with their last three ending level.

The match between the two promotion contenders remains the biggest showdown of the npower League 1 season so far, though.

And Rovers forward Adam McGurk is relishing the game, as he told www.tranmererovers.co.uk: "I can't wait. Since Sunday came it's all I've been able to think about. There's nothing better than playing in front of a big crowd and it's great if you can get the win.

"You have to enjoy it. It's a great job to have and there's no point in huffing and puffing about who you've got to play.

"The last few results haven't gone our way, we've drawn a few games we should have won. But we can look at the bigger picture. If you'd said to us at the start of the season that we'd be top after 21 or 22 games, it wouldn't have mattered by how much, just that we were top."

KEEP AN EYE ON

Come full-time on Saturday, it could be Doncaster Rovers sitting pretty at the top of npower League 1 after they have hosted Coventry City.

All Dean Saunders' men need to do to hit the summit for the first time this season is better Tranmere's result.

Rovers have a tricky task in the shape of Coventry, though, who were 5-1 winners against Walsall last time out, but come into the match unbeaten in five, winning four of those matches.

They will also be aware of the fact though that Coventry have never won away to Doncaster, in nine attempts since their first visit to South Yorkshire in 1926.

Ahead of the pivotal match, Doncaster assistant manager Brian Carey told Doncaster Free Press: "They [Coventry] have got some good players and it will be a tough game, there's no doubt about that.

"I've seen a bit of them recently and they are a decent footballing side and we'll have to be ready for that.

"I've known their manager [Mark Robins] since we were both at Manchester United. He's got a good record in management - he did well at both Rotherham and Barnsley and I was surprised that he was out of the game as long as he was.

"He knows what he is doing and he's gone there and turned things around. They are on a good run and have been scoring a lot of goals in recent games."

Since Mark Robins' introduction as the manager, the Sky Blues have improved significantly and they are looking up the table rather than down.

They have won five of their last seven fixtures and now find themselves just nine points adrift of the Play-Off places.

If they can keep their momentum going they will soon be in the promotion mix, but boss Mark Robins isn't getting carried away.

He told the Coventry Telegraph: "It's a good run but we won't be getting too excited.

"The atmosphere about the place is massively different. The feeling I got when I walked through the door on the first day was all negative and that takes time to change.

"There were a lot of lads who didn't know me so there was a period of adjustment but they are a good set of lads who just needed a bit of TLC and guidance in terms of how I want them to work and what I expect from them.

"It's not the finished article, by any stretch of imagination - we've only just got started."

ELSEWHERE IN THE DIVISION

Fourth-placed Brentford are only two points adrift of frontrunners Tranmere so they also have a chance of taking over at the top on Saturday, and the Bees take on Notts County at Meadow Lane.

The Magpies come into the match on the back of a 0-0 draw away at Yeovil Town, a result that extended their unbeaten away run to 18 league matches.

They aren't as prolific at home, though, and Brentford will travel with confidence having won six of their last eight.

Milton Keynes Dons were the last side to feel the wrath of Brentford's form - going down 3-2 at Griffin Park - and Karl Robinson's men will want to bounce back against Hartlepool United, who are 20 games without a win and sit bottom on nine points.

Walsall are also struggling and are winless in 15 matches. They will be looking to get their hammering at the hands of Coventry out of their system when they host mid-table Yeovil Town.

Despite their struggles, Walsall remain outside of the relegation zone with Portsmouth, Shrewsbury Town, Bury, Scunthorpe United and the aforementioned Hartlepool sitting below them in the standings.

Portsmouth and the Shrews are both at home - to Preston North End and Carlisle United respectively - while Bury travel to Crewe Alexandra and the Iron visit Leyton Orient, who have won their last five consecutive league matches to lie 11th.

Elsewhere, Swindon Town, Bournemouth and Crawley all sit just outside the Play-Off contingent and have tricky fixtures this weekend.

Paolo Di Canio's Robins, who are the highest of the three teams in eighth, just three points off sixth-placed MK Dons, travel to play Paul Dickov's Oldham Athletic. The Latics are down in 16th but were 2-0 winners against Colchester United last time out.

And Colchester are Bournemouth's opponents this time around. Eddie Howe's side remain unbeaten since the manager's return to the South Coast club and their spirits will be high ahead of the meeting with 17th-placed Colchester.

Finally, Stevenage and Crawley Town renew their rivalry at the Lamex Stadium. The two sides haven't met since 2010, when they were competing in the Blue Square Bet Premier together. A lot has changed since then, though, and they now share ambitions of promotion to the npower Championship.

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