AS Huddersfield Town look forward to welcoming European football’s most in-form team this weekend, the three clubs left disappointed in last season’s Championship play-offs can be forgiven for feeling envious.
Not only are the Terriers, after edging through both the semi-finals and final on penalties, doing battle with some of the game’s biggest names on a weekly basis, but Sheffield Wednesday, Fulham and Reading are all struggling to follow up last season’s near misses.
Of the trio, the Owls sit highest in the table. Eleventh place, however, is not where the club’s expectant supporter base or the Wednesday hierarchy expected to be going into the final weekend of November. Ditto Fulham (14th) and Reading (19th), who met in last May’s two-legged semi-finals.
“Reading are a team who reached the final of the play-offs last season,” said Wednesday’s head coach Carlos Carvalhal, bidding to make it third time lucky this term after twice falling short in the end-of-season promotion deciders.
“They are not at the same level that they played last season. They have been more solid in the last few games and achieved points. It will be a tough game. They have good players, a good team. They have the same coach.
“We have a disadvantage because we played on Wednesday and they played on Tuesday night. They have one more day to recover than us. In three (days) it makes a difference, four is completely different. Three to four is too much.
“We will prepare the players and see what is the best 11 to try and win the three points.”
Carvalhal opted to keep his players down south between the midweek draw at Ipswich Town and today’s trip to the Madejski Stadium in order to cut down on travelling time.
The Portuguese will be hoping to be rewarded with a victory to round off a week that has already brought two draws. The first of those stalemates came at home to Bristol City and was a dreary affair, while Wednesday needed a last-gasp equaliser from Atdhe Nuhiu to rescue a point at Portman Road.
“I don’t agree that our team mentality is not strong,” added Carvalhal. “If it is not strong, we wouldn’t have achieved a point at Ipswich and we don’t turn back a lot of games.
“The positive is we kept believing to the end and we achieved the goal. The negative was some players under-performed and the team were penalised for mistakes.”