After the drama of Monday evening’s first leg at Wolverhampton, the second play-off semi-final gets underway from Sheffield live on Eurosport 2 on Thursday.
The Tigers host Belle Vue in the most significant Roses clash for years, with the home side looking to build a lead to take to Manchester next week.
The two sides finished third and fourth in the table, some way adrift of leaders Peterborough and Wolves, but interestingly both finished the regular campaign in decent form.
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Belle Vue won their final two home matches after an unconvincing run of results at the National Speedway Stadium, and are further boosted by the return of Richie Worrall from injury.
Meanwhile Sheffield’s season was given a massive shot in the arm by their recent win at Peterborough, which they followed up by topping the 60-point mark against King’s Lynn in their last regular fixture.
Tigers boss Simon Stead is keen to label his side as underdogs – but with the likes of Jack Holder and British Champion Adam Ellis leading their attack, they clearly have the potential for a win on their home Owlerton track, as they have twice managed against the Aces already this season.
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Stead said: “I don’t think there can be any doubt that they will start tonight’s clash as favourites to make the Grand Final. It’s our lads’ job to raise our game and prove the doubters wrong.
“I’m not making promises about what we can achieve. The only thing I will promise is that we will, as a team, give it everything we’ve got and see where that takes us.”
Belle Vue, with star number one Dan Bewley looking to complete a double of Polish and British league titles, have kept things tight on both previous visits to Owlerton this season.
They lost 46-44 in a last-heat decider in July, and then 49-41 in early September, and their corresponding home results on both occasions would have been enough for aggregate victory.
Boss Mark Lemon knows his team haven’t quite hit the heights expected of them during the summer – but having qualified in the top four, the chance for major silverware is still very much there, as well as ending their long wait for a top-league title which goes all the way back to 1993.
Lemon said: “We’re heading in the right direction, and it’s been pleasing to see the boys stepping it up at the right time of the season.
“If we roll back the clock to the start of the season, we came into the league as the bookies’ favourites, and although that doesn’t mean anything because it’s a clean slate when you go into the play-offs, it’s nice to know we’ve got a bit of confidence going in and the boys are really getting the track dialled-in now.
“We have Richie coming back who is on-form. The key thing was to give him time to heal, and I really have belief in these boys that they can do it.”
All the action from Sheffield v Belle Vue is live on Eurosport 2 on Thursday from 7.30pm, with the return next Thursday, whilst the second leg of the Peterborough v Wolverhampton tie is on Monday.
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