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Championship - Football: Will it be happy returns for Wilder?

Chris Wilder spent five fabulous years bringing the good times back to Bramall Lane but now he's heading there once again with a very different agenda.

Wilder will go down in Sheffield United folklore as the man who led the club from League One to the Premier League, but now he's looking to guide Middlesbrough back to the promised land – and it's his former club who are standing in his way.

Sheffield United versus Middlesbrough is the pick of a cracking sextet of midweek Championship tussles, a colossal tussle between two of the tier's big boys who have promotion firmly in their sights.

It's seventh versus sixth with just a solitary point between these northern powers, with United at 1/1, Boro 3/1 and the draw on offer at 23/10.

Both clubs are going well, but both also know that any slip-ups could be calamitous as the promotion race reaches a climax, with everyone down to Blackpool in 14th doubtless thinking that with a fair wind and a decent run they can get into the playoff frame as a minimum.

Nothing between northern powers

Wilder, as a bona fide Blades' legend, can expect the warmest of receptions as he goes back to Bramall Lane for the first time since he left the club a year ago this week.

But once that first whistle sounds there will be no love lost on a night which could see one of these clubs up to the heights of fourth place if results go their way.

United under Paul Heckingbottom need to return to winning ways after taking one point from their last two matches, the second of which was a 1-1 draw at home to Nottingham Forest in which they conceded late on.

Boro, of course, are buzzing after adding Tottenham's scalp to Manchester United's to set up an FA Cup quarter-final clash with Chelsea, and they proved they can multi-task by pipping a dangerous Luton side 2-1 on Saturday.

They haven't, however, won any of their last five road trips – though including a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford in that sequence is hardly a negative – and haven't kept a clean sheet on their travels since before Christmas.

They did beat United 2-0 at the Riverside in the fixture list but, statistically at least, there really is precious little between them. Each side has scored 45 goals, United have conceded 36, Boro' 35. Expect it to be tight.

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Lions roaring into contention

United and Middlesbrough are in the mix for promotion, behind only runaway leaders Fulham and third-placed Bournemouth, who have games galore in hand over everyone around them.

Less fancied are Millwall at 12/1 but if promotion's all about timing, then Gary Rowett's men are measuring their end-of-season surge immaculately.

Their trip to Blackburn is a massive encounter for both teams with Rovers starting to wobble in the absence of injured top scorer Ben Brereton-Diaz, while Millwall are absolutely flying.

Six weeks ago following a 2-0 defeat at Blackpool, the Lions were a lowly 14th in the table and 11 points outside the playoffs.

Fast forward to now and having taken 19 points out of their the last possible 24, they find themselves tenth and, critically, just three points adrift of sixth-placed Middlesbrough.

Milwall will know a lot more about their promotion credentials by the time of the next international break. Following their trip to Blackburn – for which they are a 14/5 shot with Rovers at 11/10 – their next two games are at home to Middlesbrough and Huddersfield.

Big night for unfancied duo

Coventry and Luton are also in the promotion hunt ahead of their showdown for which the Sky Blues are 23/20, the Hatters are 13/5.

These clubs were fancied more for relegation than promotion at the start of term but are refusing to buckle in the race for a top-six spot.

Having said that, both clubs lost at the weekend – Coventry 3-1 at Swansea, Luton 2-1 at Middlesbrough – which gives added meaning to this confrontation. Were Luton to prevail they could conceivably be fourth going into the weekend and properly dreaming of a place in the Premier League, less than a decade after they were scrapping away in the National League.

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