HEAD COACH Carlos Carvalhal is refusing to think about automatic promotion as Sheffield Wednesday continue their quest for the Premier League.
Two wins in a row, including a 4-0 blitz of Brentford last Saturday, have left Wednesday only five points behind the Championship’s top two going into this weekend’s programme.
Neither leaders Hull City nor second-placed Middlesbrough are in league action. Hull travel to Arsenal while Boro’s scheduled opponents, Reading, host West Brom, both in the FA Cup.
A win against Preston North End tomorrow would therefore put the Owls within two points of Boro, but Carvalhal would not discuss what the three points could mean beyond victory.
“There are a lot of things that can happen,” said the former Braga coach.
“First we must play and win. I can’t talk about something that hasn’t happened. The reality is we are focused on the next game and trying to do our best.
“We are not thinking about where we will be in May – we are thinking where we will be after Saturday.”
Carvalhal also took time to highlight other sides that he thought were an improvement on his own.
“There are better teams in the competition, but we must prove during the weeks that we can beat our opponents,” he said. “Middlesbrough, Hull, Burnley, Brighton and Derby are very strong.
“When we have played against those sides, we haven’t beaten them.”
Wednesday have improved significantly as the season has worn on, something Carvalhal spoke about back in December as a likelihood.
The Owls are the form side in the second tier over the last 10 games, but while Carvalhal is happy, he thinks there is room for his team to get even better.
He said: “If you exclude the seven games when we were building a team and receiving more players, we have done fantastic since then. We have had two or three accidents, but all the teams have those.
“We are doing well. We are together and the environment is strong between the coaches, the players and the fans. We are in the process. We can do better. We are playing well and scoring goals and to entertain the fans.
“Eighty per cent of our work is to try and improve our team and correct the mistakes we have made in the past. Probably 20 per cent of it is strategy for the game.
“We are very far away from perfection (but) we are at a good level. There are things we must improve and do better and that is our focus.”
Preston have been one of the Championship’s surprise packages this season, belying pre-season expectation of a relegation battle to place themselves comfortably in mid-table. As much as Carvalhal admitted beating Preston will be a “tough” task, he has prepared his squad as he believes is best.
He continued: “It will be a very tough game against a team who have won five out of their last eight games.
“We are in the correct way. We don’t want to put expectations on nobody. I want everybody to have their feet on the floor.
“To win something, we must run and fight a lot in this competition and we don’t want to lose our focus. If we lose our focus and don’t play good football, we will not be happy. We have to focus on one step at a time.”
Wednesday have three games over the next seven days, and could find themselves in an entirely different position once the final whistle blows at the end of their match against Hull.
The games against Queens Park Rangers and the Tigers are, however, currently of no concern to Carvalhal.
“It is not a problem at this moment. We are focusing on Preston,” he said. “We will see after the game who we will play in the next one. I don’t think about what happens after Preston. My reality is the next game. I focus on Preston. It is our most important game of the season because it is the next one.
“We have a lot of fans who will be following us, which we appreciate and want to give a good answer on the pitch.”
Over 5,000 fans will make the trip across the Peak District to Deepdale on Saturday, and the 50-year-old believes it is due to recent displays. “It is good and is the consequences of what we are doing,” he added.
“They are following us with fantastic quality and quantity. We have amazing fans. We must play for them and will do our best in the 96 (sic) minutes of the game to fight for the three points.”