Both sides will welcome the return to league action after their outings in the Scottish Cup as these familiar foes take to the field on Saturday.
It is the fourth meeting of the season and the Tangerines have had the better of the Pars whether it be in the league or the cup. However, it will be a much more confident and able Athletic side that the Taysiders will face.
Allan Johnston has overseen an upturn in form for the Fifers that nobody in the division has matched since the last meeting between the sides back in mid-November. The implantation of Nat Wedderburn to the midfield and Andy Geggan at right-back has been vital to this surge up the table.
Ray McKinnon’s men have not done bad themselves, and even he could not believe how well his team had done in the opening half of the season as they kept on the coattails of Hibernian at the turn of the year. If they can bring in a goalscoring centre forward they will be odds-on favourites to rebound back into the Premiership.
While the visitors are favourites going into this game, it would be a real statement of intent to those in the promotion playoffs spots if the East End Park outfit toppled the Terrors for the first time in six years.
Keys to the game
United have failed to blow Dunfermline out of the water in any of the matches between the sides since Allan Johnston took control of the club in the summer of 2015, but have been the better team in all but one of those occasions.
Five months ago, in the only contest at East End Park so far this season seen the Pars spurn opportunity after opportunity as they had three penalties saved, and were up against 10 men for thirty minutes in their 3-1 defeat.
The Tangerines have been on a dreadful run of form having conceded 12 goals in the last three games, this from a team that leaked just 14 in the opening half of the Championship season. By no means can Athletic take solace in the Arabs’ weak defence having been just as poor before their 10 match unbeaten streak.
Both managers would admit – if honest – that their playmaker’s ability is the strongest asset of their respective squads, but lack a complimentary goalscorer to their main net-finder. The touch of extra quality that Ray McKinnon’s men possess may be offset by a lack of confidence and that could play into the black and white’s hands.
The strength of opponent has benefited Johnston’s position, with just two matches against the top four in that time, and a couple of cup fixtures against lower league opposition. However, you can only play what is in front of you, and the home side have settled in the league; it is only the next four fixtures that will give a real indication if they are promotion playoff contenders or pretenders.
Kickoff time, ticket prices and where to watch
Saturday, 15:00 @ East End Park.
South stand: Adults £19, Concessions £13, U12s £7.
All other stands: Adults £17, Concessions £11, U12s £5.
Ben Richards-Everton and Ryan Williamson (injured)
Callum Fordyce (match fitness)
Dundee United 1-1 Queen of the South (Three yellows)
Falkirk 2-1 Dunfermline Athletic (Six yellows)
Raith Rovers 1-4 Falkirk (Three yellows)
What are saying
“Dunfermline are a tough side with a lot of good, experienced players. The matches between us have been close and they have been on something of a roll while we have suffered setbacks. It should be an interesting game but hopefully my players will get the bit between their teeth again.” (Ray McKinnon, manager)
What Dunfermline Athletic are saying
“It is always going to be a tough game because when you look through the United squad, they have really good players, the same as ourselves. I don`t think that there has been much separating the teams in the last couple of games. We just need to get that edge. Hopefully we can do it at the weekend. They are on a bit of a sticky run just now so hopefully that will work in our favour as well.” (Allan Johnston, manager)
Former Dundee United players
Form since last meeting
2-3 v Alloa Athletic (A – Scottish Cup)
1-1 v St Mirren
0-2 v Ayr United (A)
0-2 v Raith Rovers (A)
1-1 v Falkirk
2-2 v Queen of the South (A)
2-1 v Greenock Morton
1-1 v Ayr United
3-5 v Buckie Thistle (A – Scottish Cup)
0-1 v St Mirren (A)
6-2 v Ross County (A – Scottish Cup)
3-3 v Queen of the South
3-0 v Hibernian (A)
1-0 v Dumbarton (A)
2-1 v St Mirren
0-0 v Raith Rovers (A)
0-1 v Ayr United (A)
1-0 v Hibernian
0-0 v Greenock Morton (A)
Last four meetings
08/11/16: Dundee United 1-0 Dunfermline Athletic
10/09/16: Dunfermline Athletic 1-3 Dundee United
31/07/16: Dundee United 2-0 Dunfermline Athletic
22/09/15: Dundee United 3-1 Dunfermline Athletic
Last home win (1-0) 21/04/07.
Dunfermline Athletic 2-2 Dundee United
Dunfermline Athletic 2/1 Draw 27/10 Dundee United 13/10
Over 2.5 goals @ 4/5
You can follow @MichaelWood_SJ on Twitter.