CUP specialist Carlos Carvalhal is backing Sheffield Wednesday tonight to inflict further “damage” on beleaguered Premier League Newcastle United.
The Owls head to St James’ Park looking both to claim a Premier League scalp and earn a place in the League Cup fourth round for the first time in 14 years.
Carvalhal has a fine coaching pedigree in knockout football, having led minnows Leixoes, as a third tier club, to the 2002 Portuguese Cup final and then into the first round proper of the UEFA Cup.
Six years later, he took Vitoria Setubal to the inaugural domestic League Cup final in his native country where they beat Sporting Lisbon.
Carvalhal put those two stirring cup runs down to belief and confidence, and the 49-year-old is urging Wednesday to display both qualities tonight in front of what is expected to be a 5,000-strong travelling army of fans from South Yorkshire.
“Newcastle have a very good coach (Steve McClaren) and squad,” said Carvalhal. “They have individuals who can change a game in one minute.
“They are not working so well at the moment but these things sometimes happen in football where you lose confidence.
“The big thing is they have good players.
“But we work in football to play in these kind of environments. There will probably be 40-odd thousand at the game.
“We must fight a lot and believe that we can get into the next round. I am confident. We know their strong points but like all the teams in the world they have weak points. We believe we can create damage.”
Leaving out Fernando Forestieri is one change forced on Carvalhal tonight due to the Italian having already played in the competition for Watford.
There will, though, be others as the Owls’ chief juggles the demands of playing both tonight and on Saturday at Brentford in the Championship.
Jack Hunt and Keiran Lee were tired after the weekend win over Fulham, according to the 49-year-old.
Atdhe Nuhiu may also be rested with the trip to Griffin Park in mind, along with Barry Bannan, who until moving to S6 had not played for eight weeks.
Whoever does get the nod at St James’ Park, Carvalhal has full faith in a squad that, he believes, will be competing regularly at Premier League stadia in the not too distant future.
“We are playing better and with more confidence,” said the Portuguese who declined to comment on speculation Danny Graham is due to move to Hillsborough.
“People are starting to understand what we are doing and improving the team. We have improved and playing much better.
“I think in a year and a half, we will play in their league if we keep improving the team. With time, I believe we will soon play in these type of stadiums every week.”
Tonight is a big step up in quality for Wednesday in this competition after seeing off League Two opposition in the form of Mansfield Town and Oxford United in previous rounds.
To prevail, Carvalhal knows the Owls will need to follow the lead of his Leixoes side in the run to the 2002 Portuguese Cup final that, even 14 years on, he believes deserved to lift the trophy.
“It was not a secret what we did,” he added. “I was a young coach at that time but I prepared the team in the same way as I would a big team.
“We played high quality football in the third division and that is why we beat second division and first division clubs.
“We beat Braga 3-1 in the semi-finals. They are my hometown, my former club and they were ready with the shirts and flags because Braga expected to get to the final as they were playing a third division team at home.
“But we played absolutely fantastic, live on TV. We lost 1-0 to Sporting Lisbon in the final, but Lisbon were the champions.
“There was very bad refereeing in this game. He should have red carded a Sporting player after two minutes. We also hit the post twice.
“It was a very special game as it was probably the first time that the team who lost got more applause than the team who won.
“It was not just our fans. We had 10,000 fans in the stadium but the Lisbon fans gave a big tribute to our team because it was something special. I have good memories of 2002.”
That season was also memorable for Wednesday, who battled through to the semi-finals of the League Cup before bowing out to Blackburn Rovers.
That was the last time the South Yorkshire club has got past the third round and Carvalhal believes the current crop can get through.
He said: “The best way to do things is to give confidence to the players. Even if we change players, we believe in them 100 per cent.
“All of them are ready and we trust them. They belong to us and we are ready to fight.”
Pudil enjoying family life at Hillsborough: Page 22.