Our writer previews Saturday's EFL Championship clash between Sheffield Wednesday and Newcastle United.This should be a fascinating match between two sides on opposite ends of the promotion free-for-all. Newcastle United sit atop the standings and are all but assured safe passage back into the upper echelons of English football.
Rafa Benitez needs to be congratulated for the seamless way in which he has adapted to what must have been a rather different level of football than what he is ordinarily accustomed to. Carlos Carvalhal’s side now desperately cling to that final playoff spot courtesy of a gritty 2-0 victory away to Rotherham. The Owls have Fulham breathing down their neck and know that this could be a pivotal weekend in the quest for a playoff spot.
English Football Championship | 8 April 2017 | Hillsborough Stadium | 18:30
To Win (90 Mins)
Sheffield Wednesday 39/20 | Draw 43/20 | Newcastle Utd 27/20
The Owls have perennially flirted with promotion for a few years now and their quest for ascension looks set to go down to the wire one more time this year. They will still be without suspended centre-half Vincent Sasso and are taking on the free-scoring, table-topping Magpies.
Sheffield employs a 4-3-3 that plays more like a 4-1-2-1-2 formation, with David Jones sitting as a sweeper behind a further defensive block in Ross Wallace and Barry Bannon. The Latter has brought some valuable Premier League experience to a side that is pugnacious as opposed to fluid. They may find themselves vulnerable to Newcastle in the wider areas this weekend if they stick to rigidly to their formation.
They have benefited immeasurably from Boro’s insane decision to send Jordan Rhodes out on loan this season. His combination play with Gary Hooper gives them the spark of creativity that this more seasoned group of players needed.
At this point of the season - particularly in a promotion push - I don’t believe that there is anything more valuable than a striker with goal-scoring credentials. Stephen Fletcher’s two goals away at Rotherham should bode well for Wednesday.
It may take some time to fully digest the refereeing fiasco that occurred at St James' Park on Wednesday night against Burton. To see a ref completely misinterpret the rules so flagrantly is something to be cherished.
Having said that, Matt Ritchie came up with a stunning goal that went some way to ameliorate the decision. Newcastle have been excellent this season, combining their obvious Premier League pedigree with a roughly hewn resilience that is necessary to succeed in this division.
Newcaslte’s more classical 4-4-1-1 formation should present them with more opportunities in wide areas. Ritchie and Christian Atsu are giving freedom to maraud and cut inside while Jonjo Shelvey and Mohamed Diame hold the fort.
So while Wednesday may feel they have the numerical advantage through the middle, they will need to overcome a physically imposing and dynamic midfield duo of Shelvey and Diame to punch any hole in this Newcastle side.
Ayoze Perez and Dwight provide penetration and pace and I find it hard to envisage Wednesday containing this side.
Verdict: Newcastle Win 27/20
I think that this isn’t the worst price for what I think will amount to a comfortable victory. All the pressure really hinges on the Owls and Newcastle will have the pace in the wider areas to unsettle Wednesday. Get on the away win!
Written by Damien Kayat @Hollywoodbets.