Jos Luhukay believes the next month will answer questions if Sheffield Wednesday can challenge the Championship’s top six.
The Owls travel to seventh-placed Aston Villa today and then their next four games are against sides – Leeds United, Middlesbrough, Bristol City and West Brom – currently in the top six spots in the Championship.
It is a daunting run of fixtures for a team, currently sat 13th, but manager Luhukay is braced for the challenge.
Wednesday’s optimism was raised after successive wins over Millwall, Ipswich Town and Reading, but all three teams are struggling in the bottom four of the Championship.
“When you win against Millwall, Ipswich Town and Reading, that is fantastic,” said Luhukay. “But, with all the respect, they are not the top teams in the league. The top teams are coming up now.
“Leeds are number one. WBA are fourth. Aston Villa will, in a short time, be in the top six.
“We must have the confidence and the trust to come to good performances and that we can beat these opponents.
“Tomorrow we have a new chance. We then play Leeds on Friday and then West Bromwich Albion. These games will give us answers on are we strong enough to play in the top six this season.
“If we don’t bring a lot of points back, then it is maybe true at this moment that we are not strong enough to play for the first six.
“Last season, we played fantastic against the top teams. Cardiff City, Wolverhampton Wanderers are examples. Also the home game against Aston Villa.
“That is now the situation, starting with Stoke City last Saturday. Nottingham Forest on Wednesday.
“These games coming up will give us answers on whether we are strong enough.
“First, Aston Villa must have our focus and then we have two home games against the number one team and number four team in the league at the moment.”
The Owls will be looking for a swift response to Wednesday night’s poor display in a 2-1 loss at Nottingham Forest.
Young defender Jordan Thorniley misses out after limping off with a calf injury at Forest, so on-loan centre-back Michael Hector could start.
Steven Fletcher netted his first goal of the season – one of the few positives to emerge from the City Ground – and Luhukay has called on the squad’s experienced players to step forward.
“The experienced players must take responsibility to find organisation and stability,” said the Dutchman. “The players in the middle of the team must try to give the team balance and stability.
“It is important we have good organisation and that we play good football. We must have trust to come to good combinations, to come to hopefully chances and scoring goals. We must score goals to come to a good result.
“It will not be easy to stop the quality of Aston Villa. They have so many good players in the offensive.
“It will be a hard and tough situation for us to find stability,” he added.