Sheffield Wednesday will look to extend their unbeaten Championship run to five matches when Nottingham Forest visit Hillsborough on Saturday.
Carlos Carvalhal’s men began the season with a 1-0 defeat away at Preston North End but have since then won one and drawn three of their four matches, which included an impressive 1-0 success at Slavisa Jokanovic’s Fulham.
That victory came on August 19 and, although they were unable to back that up with victory at Burton Albion just prior to the international break, drawing 1-1 at the Pirelli Stadium, manager Carvalhal would likely have taken many positives into the fortnight’s interruption, as well as many areas to consider improving.
And the visit of Mark Warburton’s Nottingham Forest will be another big test of the Owls’ promotion credentials, although they will have to do it without influential forward Fernando Forestieri.
The 27-year-old, who was dropped from the first team earlier in the campaign after a bust-up with teammate Sam Winnall, has been sidelined for at least three months as he requires surgery on his knee, according to boss Carvalhal in his pre-Forest press conference on Friday.
And, without doubt, this is a major blow to Sheffield Wednesday, as the Italian has been sensational since moving to Hillsborough from Watford back in 2015.
Forestieri bagged 15 goals and laid on seven assists in his first season at the club to help them reach the play-off final, albeit they then lost to Hull City at Wembley, and last term he produced the goods again with 12 goals and six assists to help them to a fourth place finish, although play-off heartbreak occurred once again.
And although he has only earned two appearances in the league this season, and hasn’t directly contributed in either, there is no mistaking that his absence will hinder the Owls, although it is up to the other forward players to make sure that it doesn’t complete derail their ambitions in what is set to be a crucial phase of the campaign.
In each of the last two seasons, Forestieri has finished as the club’s top scorer, and has been in the top three in both campaigns in terms of number of assists, yet those contributions won’t be around for the next three months or so.
Thus, the likes of Gary Hooper, Steven Fletcher, and Jordan Rhodes will have to up their game and get the goals, while the quartet George Boyd, Barry Bannan, Adam Reach, and Ross Wallace, amongst others, will need to be at their creative best. Quite simply, it’s time for the rest of the squad to step up.
The pressure is again on Carvalhal to mount another promotion push this season, and when your best player is ruled out for a few months, the whole squad has to raise their level.
And there would be no better time to start than with the visit of Nottingham Forest on Saturday.