HEAD COACH Carlos Carvalhal continues to play down Sheffield Wednesday’s promotion hopes. but defender Daniel Pudil already sees striking similarities with the Watford team he helped into the Premier League last season.
The Owls, who host Championship leaders Brighton & Hove Albion tonight, are unbeaten in 10 games and up to within a point of the play-off places.
Despite that, Carvalhal yesterday reiterated his stance that Wednesday are “outsiders” due to several rival clubs being better equipped to cope with the demands of the division.
Pudil admits that fortunes can change quickly in football, but even so the left-back – whose form at Hillsborough has earned an international recall from Czech Republic – is adamant that something special is building.
“There is big potential in this team,” said the 30-year-old, who moved to Yorkshire on loan from Vicarage Road a little over two months ago.
“It is a similar team to the Watford one that won promotion. The most important thing for Watford is we had more than just 11 or 12 players who could play.
“In this league, you need 20-25 because you cannot play with just 11 players. At Watford, it (the size of squad) definitely made the difference.
“Here at Sheffield Wednesday, we have a big squad. It is really strong and that is the important thing. If someone is injured or suspended, we can get someone from the bench or even the stand and he will play the same football.”
Pudil, of course, knows what being successful in the Championship entails after Watford finished as runners-up last term.
He added: “The important thing now is everything has settled down. It was the same at Watford; in my first 10 or 15 games we only won two. We had 15 or 16 new players and it takes time to settle down.
“Now, that has happened at Sheffield Wednesday and we are winning games.”
Pudil was joined in moving from Vicarage Road to Hillsborough by Fernando Forestieri, the Italian who has made an immediate impact by netting four goals in eight games. Forestieri is again likely to be a key individual tonight against the only remaining unbeaten side in the top four divisions of English football.
Pudil, whose international call-up for the double header against Serbia and Poland this month is his first in a year, added: “If you trust Fernando and believe in him, he can make the difference.
“When he first came to Watford it was difficult because he could not speak English. He did not have the patience for the studies and he did not learn for two years. But now his English is much better. Now he is one of the best players in the League. He is skilful, can go one-v-one or one-v -two and still beat them.
“If I had to play against him, it would be difficult because he is one of the best players I have seen in my life.”
Wednesday host the league leaders on the back of a 10-game unbeaten run that included the humbling of Arsenal and Newcastle United in the Capital One Cup.
Sam Hutchinson is back in the squad after sitting out the weekend victory over Nottingham Forest for what Carvalhal considers to be his side’s toughest assignment of the season so far.
“We have been analysing Brighton and it is easy to understand why they have not lost even one game,” said the Portuguese, who had previously seen Hull City as the Owls’ toughest test.
“It will be a very, very hard game and that is a big challenge for us. But I do believe it is the same for Brighton, as they are playing a team that has not lost in 10 games.
“It is more tough than Hull City. Hull probably have better players, individually. Brighton have good players but, as a team, they are strong. They are in first place.”
Wednesday’s impressive recent run has captured the imagination of supporters desperate for success after a lean period in the club’s history.
Carvalhal is happy to see the feel-good factor return but, at the same time, he has been quick to try and manage those expectations.
After the win over Forest, he insisted the Owls remain “outsiders” and yesterday the Portuguese was equally adamant that even ending Brighton’s unbeaten run will not change that mindset.
“I do not change my opinion,” he added. “I say the same. There are teams with more budget, with strong players and they have very good coaches. Some of them have been at their clubs two or three years.
“The teams relegated have more budget than us. Even if we beat Brighton, I will not change my way. “Realistically, we are in eighth (place) at the moment. That means seven teams are better than us. It is a hard competition; even after 10 unbeaten games we are eighth.”
Last six games: Sheffield Wednesday WDDWWW, Brighton DDWWDD.
Referee: K Wright (Merseyside).
Last time: Sheffield Wednesday 0 Brighton & Hove Albion 0; February 14, 2015; Championship.