BLOG | Play-off opposition preview

BLOG | Play-off opposition preview

With just one fixture remaining in the regular season, Wednesday have their play-off opponents all but confirmed.

Alongside our boys, Reading and Huddersfield Town have already cemented their places, while Fulham will beat Leeds into sixth place barring a thirteen goal swing on Saturday.

Wednesday and Fulham will both be relieved to have their fates sealed before their meeting. Both Carlos Carvalhal and Slaviša Jokanović now face an unlikely set of problems.

Both coaches will want to continue their unbeaten runs; they will each want to rest players; most importantly, they will want to analyse every move of the opposition.

While Leeds still have the smallest chance of a play-off place alive, the EFL will be casting an eye down both teamsheets with the ‘integrity’ of their competition still in mind.

A bit rich, let’s be fair, after their moves to complete fixtures behind closed doors.

Huddersfield Town and Reading complete the quartet, both have enjoyed surprisingly successful campaigns.

David Wagner impressed in his first half-season in West Yorkshire but nobody could have predicted in August that Town would be in with a shout of automatic promotion in April.

Jaap Stam has also made an impression in Berkshire: his Royals captured the approach he made so successful as a player and have looked sure of a top six place for the majority of the campaign.

We spoke to a couple of experts to get the low-down on their seasons, their expectations for the play-offs, and who to fear should Wednesday come up against their sides.

 

 

Jacob Potter – Reading – Writer for The Tilehurst End

 

Hi Jacob, what do you make of Reading’s season so far?

After an extremely disappointing season last year where we stayed up with two games to spare, it was frustrating as the ability has always been there but managerial issues and injuries hampered our season.

There has been renewed belief since Jaap Stam has come in and his new style has come under criticism but I’m a big fan of how it wears the opposition down and gets us results. It’s a win win for Reading fans as no one expected us to be in the position we are so anything is a bonus so hopefully we kick on in the play offs after our stuttering form of late!

 

Who has been your star player this season?

I’ll split our star player between three as they can’t be separated! Liam Moore has been phenomenal for us this season since joining from Leicester and when him and Paul McShane are fit, it’s difficult to score against us.

Yann Kermorgant has come into his own this season at the age of 35 and scored seven goals last month and is in form at the right time. We’ve only got him for one more year as he retires at the end of next season so we’ll try and win promotion for him!

Big player (The Scottish Sun)

And the last player is John Swift who has shown that on his day, he can be one of the most creative players in the league. Since his injury for the England Under 21s, I feel as though he hasn’t been fully back to his best but we are seeing glimpses of the quality he can produce!

 

Who is your under-rated player? The player who does all the work and gets no credit?

This is a no brainier for me. Midfielder Liam Kelly is vital to the way we play and is a massive reason as to why we are in the position we are in the table.

He was on loan at Bath City last year and has definitely made the step up to the Championship. His vision is the best I’ve seen at Reading for a while and he’s still only 21 and is by far the smallest player in our team but he’s technically a brilliant player.

 

Looking happy with his team, and so he should (Reading Chronicle)

How has Jaap Stam done in his first year in charge?

The guy is a genius. There’s no other way to put it. To take us from relegation strugglers to the play off positions is a fantastic achievement.

What is even more impressive is the budget in which he has done it on.

Apart from Tiago Illori signing for just over £3 million we’ve mainly signed free agents which is a credit to Director of Football Brian Tevreden and Stam for remaining patient with the lower budget we have compared to the other sides who are up there with us in the table.

 

From Wednesday, Fulham and Huddersfield – who concerns you the most?

I think most people will be worried about Fulham. No doubt about it. They’re bang in form at the moment and can cause trouble both home and away as they’ve already proved this season.

We’re likely to get them in the semi-finals so we’ve got to beat them at some point to get to the Premier League so let’s try and get it out the way now!

 

Can Reading go up?

Absolutely! If we turn up then we can cause trouble to any of the sides in the play offs! If McCleary and Beerens get going out wide then they can cause issues for any defender. I just hope our defensive frailties don’t haunt us as we’ve been thumped at times this season.

 

And finally, what do I think of Wednesday?

With the financial benefits you have compared to us, I expected you to be in the position you are to be honest!

I thought when we beat you at Hillsborough that you’d miss out on the last play off place but Leeds have helped everyone out and bottled it! In regards to who I fear from your squad, I’m not sure if Forestieri is still injured or not? But him, Gary Hopper and Barry Bannan for me are the danger men.

 

 

Andrew Beck – Fulham – Writer for Cottagers Confidential

 

Hi Andrew, what have you made of Fulham’s season so far?

The season so far has been better than I actually expected. I said before the season started that this would be a mid-table team that could challenge for a play-off spot if everything broke right. They actually turned into one of the three or four best teams in the division and only bad luck had them finishing as low as sixth.

 

I think we all know the answer to this, but who is Fulham’s star man?

Without question it’s Tom Cairney. He’s Fulham’s most creative player. He’s scored wonder goals. And most of all his excellent passing helps Fulham with their possession based attack.

The Championship’s most valuable asset? (getwestlondon)

 

How has Slaviša Jokanović done this season?

Jokanović is the best manager Fulham have had since Roy Hodgson. I’m worried that if Fulham don’t go up, someone is going to poach him. I still don’t understand why Watford let him go before they went up.

 

Who would you like to avoid in the play-off semi finals?

Wednesday are the most worrying team. By expected goals, Fulham is the third ranked team in the Championship. Wednesday is fourth. There’s quite a large gap after that but Huddersfield is sixth. Reading is all the way down at 22nd.

Just looking at goal differential confirms it. Wednesday is the team I hope we don’t have to face.

 

Can The Cottagers do it?

Stable defence

I believe so. They’ve played well away from home. They’ve played well against the top sides. They’ve got better as the year went on. As long as things don’t go to penalties (Fulham have missed nine so far this year), I think we can beat anyone.

 

Any thoughts on the threat of Wednesday?

Nobody in Wednesday’s attack particularly scares me. That defence though is scary. Fulham can score against anyone, but breaking down that Wednesday side would be very difficult.

 

 

James Hart – Huddersfield Town – Fan

 

Hi James, what have you made of Town’s season to this point?

A dream! Town fans could see the improvements being made on and pitch since Wagner’s arrival, but still the most optimistic fan was hoping for an upper mid table finish at the start of this season.

Our chairman, Dean Hoyle, has backed the team all the way, with new players, new staff and bargain season tickets all combining to make the best season in many fans’ living memory.

 

Does that Town side have a star man?

It has to be Aaron Mooy, who when he is on form, can completely run a game from midfield. He has a canny tendency to always come out with the ball, no matter the situation.

Mooy celebrating a goal against Leeds, which I can certainly get behind

However, Mooy is backed up by the excellent Jonathan Hogg, his midfield partner, who is seemingly everywhere, making tackles all over the pitch and doing the hard work.

 

Who’s the under-rated cog in the Terriers’ machine?

Normally I’d say Hogg, as he plays the traditional defensive midfield “underrated” position.

However he has had quite a lot of plaudits this season, so I’ll go for Christopher Schindler, one half of our German centre back pairing. Our record signing at £1.8m, he looks a steal, and has been the class act we’ve been missing in central defence for years.

 

Wagner

Give us your thoughts on the job David Wagner has done.

David Wagner is almost at god-level status within the Huddersfield area.

The gamble taken with his appointment has been an absolute masterstroke; Wagner has led a step-change in all areas of the club, and brought success we could’ve never imagined at our club.

 

Fulham, Reading, Wednesday – which club worries you?

They all do, but Fulham especially.

They have smashed us both times we’ve played them this season, and seem to be able to tear teams apart with ease.

However, Wednesday always seem to know exactly how to play against us, shutting our game down, and then relying on one of your multi-million pound strikers to get a winner.

Meanwhile I’d be more confident against Reading, however they are where they are for a reason, and seem to regularly find a way of winning against a variety of opponents.

 

Can Town do it?

Yes, why not?!

 

What have you made of Wednesday this season?

Decent. It’s always been evident that you have one of the best squads in the league, thanks to your multi-million pound investment from the Thai fisherman, but it seemed that at the start of the season you were suffering a bit from a combination of a play-off hangover, and that other teams had figured you out.

Since then however, you’ve been excellent, and a match for anyone in the league; but you’d expect nothing less with your budget!

 

Town fans love him

 

Forestieri is the main worry for me. Since his Watford days, he has frustrated Town fans twice a season with his ability to continuously score against us, whilst also throwing himself to the ground every time he feels a light breeze tickling his back.

Jordan Rhodes also always scores against us, so if we meet, that’s almost a two goal advantage to you already!

 

 

Thanks again to James, Andrew and Jacob for taking the time out to chat to us.

All the best for the play-offs, lads – until you meet Wednesday, that is.

If recent play-off campaigns are anything to go by, you can be sure that these four clubs will provide more drama and more unexpected results.

First up, though, it’s the dress rehearsal versus Fulham.

Keep an eye out for the match preview, and the final press pass of the regular season!

Hugh
Owls Alive
E-MAIL: owlsalive@gmail.com
Twitter: @OwlsAlive and @hugh_wragg

Images: SWFC, unless stated.


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