HEAD coach Carlos Carvalhal is confident that Sheffield Wednesday will not be cowed in tonight’s encounter at Championship leaders Newcastle United, believing his side can spring a major surprise.
Sixth-placed Owls are seeking to follow in the footsteps of Yorkshire rivals Huddersfield Town by taking three points from St James’ Park and while Carvalhal acknowledges that his side face their stiffest test of the season so far, he believes they are ready for the challenge.
It is the second season in succession that Wednesday face a televised date in the north east over Christmas against a side going for the title – and while the Owls were unluckily edged out at Middlesbrough 12 months ago, the Portuguese feels his side have the capacity to go a couple of steps further tonight.
If the visitors require even more inspiration, it is provided by the events of the Owls’ last trip to Tyneside when they upset the hosts and knocked them out of the Capital One Cup in September, 2015.
Carvalhal, who has talismanic forward Fernando Forestieri back in the fray after his completion of a three-match suspension, said: “It will be the hardest game in the season, but it does not mean we will not have our chances.
“We are analysing Newcastle and they are a balanced team. They have more strong points than weak points. But we will try to block their dymanic.
“We respect all our opponents. We know they are very strong and have very good players and a very good coach.
“But we are Sheffield Wednesday cand we can go into all games and fight for the three points.. We have won four out of the last five games. We lost one, which we did not deserve to lose. We will give 100 per cent.
“I want the skin of my players to stay on the pitch at St James’ Park. I want the skin to stay there. It means that we will work hard to win points and we believe we can win points.
“It will be very difficult, but we are Sheffield Wednesday.”
Newcastle will be without the services of key midfielder Jonjo Shelvey, who starts the first game of a five-match ban after being found guilty of using racially abusive language to an opponent.
But Carvalhal is not reading too much into his absence, given the vast squad depth at the disposal of his Iberian counterpart Rafa Benitez, while having his own squad issues with which to contend.
The Owls’ chief remains hopeful that midfielders Barry Bannan and Kieran Lee will be fit, with the availability again of Forestieri, heavily linked with a move to Newcastle in late summer, representing one confirmed boost.
He added: “We have probably five to six players who we are not sure will be available.
“A concern is when we do not have players and that is red alert.
“Even though we have doubts on some players, we are no more than on yellow alert.”
While highlighting the need to show their battling qualities, Carvalhal is acutely aware of the pressing need for his side to retain their discipline no matter what the provocation or circumstances, something that Forestieri failed to do when dismissed for violent conduct in the recent game against Preston.
Urging all his players to keep their emotions in check on the big stage, Carvalhal said: “This is football. You can see these things around the world.
“Sometimes opponents know the characters of players and try to provoke them. It is not easy when you receive provocations.
“We are trying to teach our players to control their emotions in these kind of situations.”
Last six games: Newcastle LDLWWW Sheffield Wednesday DLWLWW.
Referee: P Tierney (Lancashire).
Last time: Newcastle 0 Sheffield Wednesday 1; September 23, 2015; Capital One Cup.