FOR Sheffield Wednesday, today brings an opportunity to rein in a major rival in the race for the Premier League.
Huddersfield Town, meanwhile, will be looking to add Hillsborough to St James’ Park, Elland Road and Carrow Road to a list of conquered enemy grounds in their own quest to claim the life-changing £100m-plus riches that accompany promotion to the top flight.
The stage is set for arguably the biggest derby between these two famous old football names in a generation and one on which Leeds United, the other Yorkshire club occupying a play-off place right now, will surely be keeping a close eye.
Owls’ head coach Carlos Carvalhal, whose side trail Town by four points, is anticipating a tough encounter, but one in which his side can stamp their authority on proceedings.
“It will be a big game,” he told The Yorkshire Post. “Firstly, because Huddersfield are a good team. They absolutely deserve their position in the table.
“And, secondly, because they have more points than us so far. They are in a good position. Huddersfield are a consistent team, I think the lowest they have been this season is in fourth spot.
“They have also won their last three away games – including Norwich – and have a process which the players understand.
“But we are Sheffield Wednesday, playing at Hillsborough in front of our own fans. We are sixth, have lost just one game out of nine, and will be fighting for the three points.”
David Wagner, whose first game as head coach of Town was last season’s 3-1 loss at Hillsborough, is in equally forceful mood after a six-game run that has yielded 16 points.
“We know what we have to do,” said the German. “It is fifth versus sixth, it is a Yorkshire derby and it is Hillsborough, a very traditional place.
“There are not a lot of secrets between the two sides and managers. Defence will win this game. We have to get our attitude right as well.”
Wednesday will meet the Terriers for the 56th time today. In a rivalry stretching back almost a century, there have been many, many memorable encounters.
These include an April meeting in 2012, during a run-in that ended with both clubs promoted from League One, and the May night in 1984 when Wednesday triumphed 1-0 at the old Leeds Road a few days after clinching a return to the old Division One under Howard Wilkinson.
The two clubs have also met 28 times in the top flight, while the Owls beat Town in the FA Cup fifth round en route to reaching Wembley in 1966.
In terms of what is at stake, however, today’s meeting surely has to be right up there due to both clubs being in with a very real shout of winning promotion and all the riches that accompany a place in the Premier League.
“Derby games are different,” said Wagner. “But not more important because there are still just three points to win. We do, though, feel we have to correct what happened at home against Sheffield Wednesday (when Town lost 1-0).
“We were unlucky that day, to be fair, after a handball penalty that possibly wasn’t a penalty.”
Fernando Forestieri’s successful spot-kick at the John Smith’s Stadium in October continued Carvalhal’s dominance over his Town counterpart with all three tussles between the pair going the way of the Portuguese.
Another victory today would be a major fillip for Wednesday in what is shaping up to be a memorable finale in the Championship for Yorkshire football.
Not that Wagner is putting too much emphasis on the White Rose element in the developing promotion race.
He said: “For me, it is irrelevant how many Yorkshire clubs are in the race. I do like it. But it is irrelevant who is around us. All that matters is where we are. We are in a position where we can go marching on – and this is what we do.”
Carvalhal, meanwhile, is ready to tackle one of the Owls’ toughest assignments head on.
“Huddersfield are a quality team and Wagner is doing very well,” added the Owls chief, whose side reached the play-off final last term. “It is not just the results, but the quality of their game. They play a good quality of football.
“They play positive and try to manage the ball. They do this really well so we have to be ready for that.
“But we don’t have any reason to be negative, just positive. We are all looking forward to this derby game.”
Big-match preview: Page 3