Sheffield Wednesday face-off against Yorkshire rivals Leeds United at Elland Road looking to break back into the top six after FA Cup success.
The Owls are buoyant at the moment after their surprise victory over Premier League Brighton in the FA Cup on Saturday ended a run of three defeats on the bounce in the Championship, seeing them slip out of the top six in recent weeks.
Poor results came against Stoke City, Cardiff City and Hull City in the last two weeks as Garry Monk looked to take advantage of other side’s inconsistencies alongside their own, however, that problem has reared its face again.
Injuries to key players have not helped Monk’s plans this season with Fernando Forestieri barely featuring since his appointment, alongside defensive absentees. Yesterday, the Owls were dealt a huge blow to their push for promotion when Garry Monk revealed that top scorer Steven Fletcher would be out for eight to ten weeks as he recovers from his knee injury.
They head into the weekend looking for an unlikely win against the current league leaders in Leeds United and Monk will be optimistic of a positive result against Marcelo Bielsa’s side, having taken seven out of a possible nine points from games against the Argentine since he was appointed at Elland Road.
With changes set to be made by Monk following the cup victory, we take a look at the lineup we expect Wednesday to field tomorrow afternoon at Elland Road…
Monk is unlikely to deviate from the standard 4-4-2 formation that has helped push his side towards the play-off places and make them genuine promotion candidates after the halfway point of the season. There have only been a few instances where Monk has switched to a 4-2-3-1, but this came as a result of crippling injury problems to his side.
In goal, will remain Cameron Dawson who has featured heavily in recent months for the Owls following the decision to drop Keiren Westwood from the side. Dawson has impressed in that time and kept a clean sheet against the Seagulls in the cup at the weekend, so there is no reason to see him miss out.
An injury to Liam Palmer at right-back sees the first enforced change from full-strength that Monk has to make. In comes Dominic Iorfa to slot in at right-back alongside Tom Lees, Julian Borner, and Morgan Fox. Iorfa has been immense at centre-back, for the most part, this season but will have to settle for a place on the right with Palmer out for the weekend, meaning Julian Borner comes in a centre-back, adding even more height and physicality to the lineup.
In a midfield four, Monk is expected to revert back to Adam Reach, Barry Bannan, Sam Hutchinson, and Kadeem Harris. This midfield offers the Owls a lot more balance than the setup they took to the AMEX at the weekend, meaning they can both defend rigidly with two banks of four when Leeds almost certainly dominate possession, but also have the ability to sting the Whites on the counter-attack with very technical players in the middle and out wide.
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Harris comes back in on the left and that pushes Reach back to the right-wing after his match-winning strike on Saturday. These two wide men will be key for Wednesday if they are to get anything out of this game and their delivery has been a major reason why Wednesday find themselves in the promotion picture.
Up front will be another change with Atdhe Nuhiu and Jordan Rhodes coming in to take the place of the lone-striker Fletcher who suffered that huge setback, as mentioned previously. These two will undoubtedly cause problems for Leeds’ defence from their physical presence and experience in the final third. It hasn’t been the most fruitful campaign for the duo this season, with just five league goals between them this season. To outline how big a blow losing Fletcher is for two months, he is the Owls top scorer on 12 in the Championship, the next best is Rhodes on three along with Harris.
It is set to be a tough game for Wednesday who will know what they are in for against the table-toppers, but their impressive draw against them back in October will surely give them the confidence to travel to Elland Road and get a result.