SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY head coach Carlos Carvalhal has cast aside suggestions that his Owls side will start as clear favourites in their all-Yorkshire Championship play-off semi-final with Huddersfield Town.
Wednesday, who finished the season in fourth place after a 2-1 final-day home loss to Fulham, will make the trip to John Smith’s Stadium next Sunday lunchtime for the first leg of their tie with Town, beaten 3-0 at home to Cardiff City in their last game of the regular campaign. The second leg will take place at Hillsborough on Wednesday, May 17 (kick-off 7.45pm).
The Owls did the double over Town in 2016-17, following up a 1-0 victory in West Yorkshire in October with a 2-0 home success in January – and have won their past four matches against Huddersfield.
All told, Town have not beaten Wednesday in their past seven matches, but Carvalhal believes that history counts for nothing.
Carvalhal, who made 10 changes to his starting line-up in yesterday’s home loss, which ended a six-match winning sequence, said: “It now counts as zero and this is another championship. Now everything starts at zero and let’s play. There is a 25 per cent chance each for the four teams (in the play-offs). They (Huddersfield) are preparing for the play-offs, which is why they have lost some games and they will have a completely different face on Sunday and we will also, absolutely.
“It will be very, very hard to beat Huddersfield, who are a good team. They have had a very good season and they are a team who are not easy to play against. But they know also that we are not an easy team. I think it will be a balanced game.
“They have done well. They played good football last season, but they are playing better this season and are more organised and have brought in some players.
“They deserve to be in the play-offs and have quality. All the four teams in the play-offs have quality – you can see that with the teams who they put out of the play-offs such as Leeds, Derby, Aston Villa and Norwich.”
Meanwhile, head coach David Wagner insists his Town side will be the underdogs in the White Rose semi-final with Wednesday.
The Terriers have led the Owls for the best part of an entire season before being overtaken by their county neighbours in the final two matches.
But now we have Sheffield Wednesday in front of us, a Yorkshire derby, and we will be totally focused and switched on, I am sure.David Wagner
Nevertheless, given Huddersfield have exceeded all expectations this season and Wednesday are in the play-offs for the second straight year, Wagner believes his men will be the underdogs.
“We will not be the favourites in the semi-final. We will have the underdog role as we have had all season,” he said. “We are used to it. We like it. The pressure is totally on Sheffield if you see what they have spent.
“Huddersfield Town are three games away from the Premier League – even to say it sounds ridiculous.”
Wagner has also been quick to allay any fears that Huddersfield fans may have that his side have lost momentum going into the play-offs.
In contrast to the Owls’ strong recent form, Town won only three of their final 10 games.
The performance in yesterday’s defeat to Cardiff – headlined by the sending off of goalkeeper Danny Ward – is not a portent for how his team will play over the two legs with Wednesday, believes Wagner.
“For me it wasn’t easy in the last two weeks to create the excitement, because we had done our job in reaching the play-offs, which is an unbelievable achievement for this football club,” said the German.
“But now we have Sheffield Wednesday in front of us, a Yorkshire derby, and we will be totally focused and switched on, I am sure. We will leave this competition behind us quickly. We can be very proud of what we have achieved, but we have to play better than we did today.
“We will create an excitement and an atmosphere which will help us be successful.
“The Huddersfield supporters are realistic. They know what this dressing room has achieved, and they, like us, want to play the games that count.”
Elsewhere, Chris Wood scored his 30th goal of the season as Leeds United drew 1-1 at relegated Wigan Athletic. Barnsley lost 3-0 at champions Newcastle and Rotherham drew 1-1 with Derby.