The Sky Bet Championship play-offs get underway this evening, as sixth placed Sheffield Wednesday host third placed Brighton at Hillsborough.
Brighton missed out on automatic promotion on the final day of the season after drawing 1-1 with Middlesbrough at the Riverside, leaving them to fight in the play-offs.
Wednesday beat Cardiff 3-0 on the penultimate weekend of the season to secure sixth spot, but are far from the connotations of the ‘weakest’ side in the mini-tournament.
Every one knows how this works, the winner from this tie over two legs will face the winner of the Hull vs Derby semi-final at Wembley in a couple of weeks, with the winner of that match gaining promotion.
The Owls will want to make good on their home advantage in the first leg, taking a lead into the return fixture on the South coast.
Here are THREE things to look out for in Friday evening’s massive tie…….
1) Team News – key duo out for the Seagulls
The home side have good news ahead of this tie, with Ross Wallace returning from suspension and Atdhe Nuhiu back from a knee injury ahead of the grudge match.
Chris Hughton has less good news for this match, with Lewis Dunk and Dale Stephens suspended and Bobby Zamora still out.
Zamora, who won promotion via the play-offs with QPR a few years ago, has been ruled out of both legs of the semi-final.
It is thought that Hughton could bring Steve Sidwell back into the side.
Can Carlos Carvalhal’s side capitalise on Brighton’s injury woes?
2) An anti-climax, or a buck to the trend?
Whilst in the play-offs recently we’ve seen plenty of goals, the last three meetings between these two sides have been 0-0 draws.
As well as this, the last five matches between the teams have only featured two goals, in two 1-0 wins for Wednesday.
There’s further bad news for Albion, as the last time that they defeated the Sheffield side was back in 2012, a 3-0 victory. Over their history, they’ve only won five times, compared to 13 draws and 13 defeats.
Are the history books going to be reliable this year?
3) Hemed vs Forestieri
Gary Hooper is having a pretty impressive season, and Anthony Knockaert’s impact since arriving in England has been magnificent, but neither have got the goals that the two key men have for their teams.
Tomer Hemed has 17 goals and six assists to his name, putting him fifth in the scoring charts in the second tier. His first hat-trick in the 5-0 victory over Fulham assured them of at least a play-off spot, and will be looking to send them to a first-leg lead on Friday night.
Forestieri’s 15 goals and six assists leave him with a more than impressive record of 197 minutes. The 26-year old scored four goals in two games over the Christmas period to help his side to wins over Birmingham and Wolves, and will be hoping that he can recreate that form this evening.
Who will come out on top and set their team up with an excellent shot of progressing?
Sheffield Wednesday fans, what do you think? Can the players you have back inspire you to a first leg victory?
Brighton fans, can you right your recent form against the Owls? Let us know your opinions and score predictions below!