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Huddersfield Town

Sheffield Wednesday (0) vs Huddersfield Town (0): Championship play-off semi-final match preview, likely line-ups and score prediction

Jake Jackman

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The play-off semi-final between Sheffield Wednesday and Huddersfield Town is nicely poised after a goalless draw in the first leg at the weekend. It was a typically resolute performance from the Owls as they looked to frustrate their hosts and they will be pleased to be coming back to Hillsborough on level terms. They are now unbeaten in eight matches against their Yorkshire rivals and will be full of confidence on Wednesday night. On the other hand, the Terriers need to deliver a much better performance as they have yet to score in the three meetings between the two clubs this season.

There have been speculation that Carlos Carvalhal will be leaving his manager’s post after the play-offs, regardless of whether he oversees a promotion or not. The timing of these rumours isn’t the best and could offer a distraction on Wednesday night when all focus should be on getting promoted. Wednesday’s game plan worked at the weekend, but they will need to offer more in attack during the second-leg, which should open spaces for Huddersfield. This should be a more entertaining fixture, but their recent success against the Terriers will mean that they start the match as favourites.

David Wagner’s team have hugely overachieved this season and it will go down as a success even if they fail to win the play-offs. However, this could be their best opportunity of reaching the Premier League for a long time and they will be desperate to come out on top at Hillsborough. They had the better of the first leg, with Aaron Mooy and Izzy Brown standing out. If they can improve in the final third on Wednesday, they will have a great chance of progressing.

Recent form

The Owls won three of their last four home matches of the season, including an impressive showing against Newcastle, but their final day defeat to Fulham shows that they are far from unbeatable at Hillsborough. Reading also managed to win there in March.

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Huddersfield lost three of their last five away matches of the season and their performances during that run were far from convincing. Their 4-0 loss to Bristol City at the end of March put an end to their automatic promotion hopes. Wagner will have to make sure his team are much better prepared for this match.

Predicted line-ups

Carvalhal is likely to retain faith in the same eleven and hope that his attackers can impact the game more. Jordan Rhodes and Sam Winnall are both possible starters, but it is probable that the same pair of strikers that played on Sunday will start.

The only change that the away side are likely to make is Danny Ward for Joel Coleman. Although the number two did nothing wrong on Sunday, Ward has been the regular this season and deserves to start in the second leg.

Team News

Sam Hutchinson could be back from a knee injury to play a part in the second leg. However, Gary Hooper remains on the sidelines, which means that Steven Fletcher should retain his place.

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Danny Ward will be back from suspension, which is a huge boost for Town as he has been very good for the most part of the season.

Match Prediction: Sheffield Wednesday 2-0 Huddersfield Town

This is going to be a more open game that the first leg and there will be chances for both teams to score. Wednesday have the edge as they have such a good record against Huddersfield in recent years. Their failure to score in any of the three fixtures this season is a worry for the visitors ahead of the game, but they need to ignore that statistic as they have players in attack that can cause a threat. The Owls have won their previous two play-off matches at Hillsborough without conceding a goal and considering their record in this fixture, that could be maintained on Wednesday night.

Jake is a student based in the South East. He is a Newcastle fan and has a keen interest in Dutch football. Jake can be found on Twitter here - @jakejackmann.

Chelsea

Three talking points as Chelsea brushed aside Huddersfield Town

Rob Meech

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Chelsea bounced back from their surprise defeat to West Ham United with a comfortable victory over Huddersfield Town. The Blues totally dominated at the John Smith’s Stadium and the result never looked in doubt once Tiemoue Bakayoko had given them a 23rd-minute lead.

Willian doubled their advantage before Pedro added a third goal, five minutes into the second half. The Terriers grabbed a consolation through Laurent Depoitre with the last kick of the game, but the gulf in class was evident on a rain-soaked evening in Yorkshire.

Chelsea’s win brought them level on points with second-placed Manchester United, at least temporarily, while Huddersfield’s defeat was their fifth in their past six Premier League matches. Here are three talking points.

Antonio Conte’s players deliver the perfect riposte 

This was a fixture that had all the characteristics of an upset. The weather was dreadful, with rain falling heavily throughout. Given the way the Terriers had recently pushed Manchester City all the way, not to mention seeing off Manchester United on home turf earlier in the campaign, many tuned into BT Sport thinking the Blues would find things difficult.

It didn’t materialise. Chelsea were in command from the first whistle and the only surprise was that it took them until the 23rd minute to break the deadlock. After their defeat to West Ham, this was just the response boss Antonio Conte would have wanted from his players.

They dictated the tempo of the game and never allowed Huddersfield – or their supporters – an opportunity to stamp their authority on the contest. The fluid movement of Chelsea’s front three caused the Terriers plenty of problems and led to individual mistakes, with one such error leading to Bakayoko’s opener.

Alarm bells are ringing for Huddersfield

Anything other than defeat would have been a bonus for David Wagner’s side, who had set up to frustrate the visitors. By beating Brighton & Hove Albion three days earlier, they have given themselves breathing space in the battle to avoid relegation. But the Terriers cannot afford to be complacent.

Although their current position may look relatively safe, a run of five defeats in six games, as well as a vastly inferior goal difference, suggests there could be worrying times ahead. Against the two Manchester clubs, Huddersfield made life difficult for their opponents. But they were far too passive against Chelsea.

Perhaps it is understandable that Wagner wants his players to conserve their energy for fixtures against clubs with whom they are battling for survival. But the home fans surely would have expected a more positive approach.

Is Michy Batshuayi surplus to requirements?

With Alvaro Morata suffering from a back complaint and rested for this match, Michy Batshuayi must have thought he would be handed a rare opportunity to impress from the start. Tellingly though, Chelsea boss Conte opted for a front three of Willian, Eden Hazard and Pedro, with no out-and-out striker.

This would have been a huge kick in the teeth to the Belgian marksman, who has failed to establish himself since joining the west London outfit from Marseille in the summer of 2016. Last season, he was forced to play second fiddle to Diego Costa, while now he is behind Morata in the pecking order.

Batshuayi has enjoyed success from the bench; famously he netted the goal that confirmed Chelsea as title winners in the previous campaign. This latest snub must be further evidence that Conte does not see Batshuayi as part of his long-term plans and there is speculation the Italian might be willing to allow him to go out on loan in January.

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Arsenal

Three talking points from Arsenal’s demolition of Huddersfield Town

Rob Meech

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Arsenal recorded their third consecutive Premier League victory as they outclassed Huddersfield Town at the Emirates. It took the hosts only three minutes to break the deadlock through Alexandre Lacazette, but it was in the second half that the floodgates truly opened.

Olivier Giroud (two), Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil all added to the scoreline in the final 22 minutes of a one-sided affair that will have deflated the travelling Terriers fans. After a troubling start to the season, the fourth-placed Gunners look to be back to their free-flowing best, while Huddersfield’s third defeat on the bounce leaves them in 14th position. Here are three talking points.

Crisis, what crisis? Arsenal are back to their old selves

Barely a game goes by without Arsene Wenger’s managership of Arsenal being questioned in some quarters. But the level-headed Frenchman has navigated his way through the storm and now appears to have steered his squad into calmer waters. With speculation over the future of Ozil and Sanchez having settled down, Wenger’s charges are playing with confidence and suddenly look like the Arsenal of old.

The Emirates has been a fortress for the Gunners this season – they have yet to drop a single point there. Arsenal often flatter to deceive and capitulate when the going gets tough. Who knows what will happen over the winter months? Tougher tests await them for sure, but when they breeze past opponents in this manner, you wonder why it goes spectacularly wrong so often.

Huddersfield outgunned once more on their travels

Huddersfield’s campaign will not be defined by results such as this, but they shouldn’t be written off as inconsequential. All defeats have ramifications and confidence will be eroded quickly if they continue. While they remain competitive at home – as they proved by pushing Manchester City all the way last weekend – they look toothless on their travels. Indeed, the Terriers haven’t scored away from the John Smith’s Stadium since August but have conceded nine goals without reply in their past two trips.

No team can rely solely on results at home to survive. For all the plaudits Huddersfield have rightly received for their enterprising start since being promoted from the Championship, they now find themselves only five points clear of the drop-zone. David Wagner has his work cut out to arrest the slide.

Super-sub Giroud is proving his worth

There was speculation in the summer that Giroud would be on his way out of the Emirates following the arrival of his countryman Lacazette. Giroud has spent more time on the substitutes’ bench this season than he would have liked, but when he has been given an opportunity, invariably he has taken it. The 31-year-old’s two goals against Huddersfield took his tally for the season to five – the same number as Sanchez but at a much quicker rate.

With Lacazette potentially sidelined for a prolonged spell after picking up a groin injury, Giroud may well find himself promoted to the starting line-up for a crucial period of the campaign. He gets a rough ride from certain sections of the Arsenal faithful, but has netted more than 100 goals for the club in all competitions. The Gunners rely on him more than some supporters may believe.

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Huddersfield Town

Three talking points as Manchester City battled to victory over Huddersfield Town

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Manchester City

Manchester City restored their eight-point lead at the top of the Premier League table as they came from behind to see off a spirited Huddersfield Town at the John Smiths’ Stadium on Sunday evening.

Pep Guardiola’s side dominated the play from the start, having over 75% possession in the first-half alone, but despite their endeavours in the final third it was the hosts who took the lead on the stroke of half-time when Nicolas Otamendi inadvertently diverted a corner past goalkeeper Ederson.

It didn’t take long for the visitors to level things up after the break though, with Sergio Aguero slotting home from the spot after Raheem Sterling was hauled down in the box by Scott Malone.

It seemed like a dogged Huddersfield rear-guard display might hold on for a point until Sterling’s fortunate strike in the 84th minute sealed it, restoring Manchester City’s eight-point lead at the top.

City find a new way to win

After thrashing Liverpool, convincingly seeing off Arsenal and brushing away the likes of Stoke City and Crystal Palace this season, it’s fair to say that Manchester City have been rampant to this point.

Sunday’s victory over Huddersfield was a stark contrast to any of those that had preceded it, with Guardiola’s side having to find a new way to win to break down their disciplined opponents.

There was still a large amount of flair on show throughout the match, with David Silva providing some intricate one-touch football at times and Leroy Sane’s free-kick cannoning back off the crossbar, and Guardiola ensured his side’s expansive passing style didn’t falter as they searched for a winner.

It was the tenacity of the Citizens that eventually broke Huddersfield down – albeit with huge slice of luck – and they managed to do what rivals Manchester United couldn’t and win at Huddersfield, and you could see from Guardiola’s reaction at full-time that he knew this could be a massive three points.

They always say that it’s winning these types of matches that provide a test of a team’s title credentials, and it’s the first time City have come from behind at half-time to win since April 1995.

With an eight-point lead opened back up over Manchester United at the top, and with the matches starting to come thick and fast, it’s not outlandish to say it’s already City’s title to lose this season.

Determined Huddersfield fall just short

But whilst Manchester City will no doubt be buoyant over their latest victory, spare a thought for Huddersfield who came mightily close to securing more points against the Premier League big boys.

There may have been a £322.6m difference in the costs of the starting line-ups on Sunday but the Terriers weren’t in awe of their opponents, and nobody would have begrudged them a valiant point.

For all of the possession that City had (79%) at the John Smiths’ Stadium they still only mustered four shots on target such was the hosts’ outstanding defensive display, and credit goes to boss David Wagner for picking his team up after their demoralising 4-0 defeat to Bournemouth in their last outing.

The hosts had learnt their lesson from the gung-ho approach against Tottenham, instead sitting deep and allowing City to come into their half of the field, yet the way that their midfield and defence remained compact didn’t allow the likes of Kevin de Bruyne the time to conjure up magic on the ball.

Whilst the result didn’t go their way it was a display that served to show that Huddersfield belong in the Premier League and they should have enough character and the necessary work ethic to survive.

Sterling continues to underline his importance

If you’d have told any Manchester City fan before the start of the season that Raheem Sterling would be the first name on Pep Guardiola’s team sheet each week they would have laughed it off.

Yet, after a somewhat stuttering start to his time at the Etihad, the 22-year-old has come into his own this campaign and he once again made the definitive impact six minutes from time yesterday.

There’s no doubt that there was an element of fortune about it, with Jonas Lossl’s save deflecting off Sterling and nestling into corner of the net in slow-motion, but it was Sterling’s determined run towards the penalty spot – the sort he had been doing all match – that perhaps merited a bit of luck.

It signalled his eighth Premier League goal of the season in just 13 appearances, already bettering last year’s tally (seven in 33 games), and it goes to show just how indispensable Sterling has become.

During the 90 minutes he made the joint-most dribbles (seven) and crosses (three), working tirelessly to try and engineer a chance for his side, and it was his burst into the box that drew the challenge for Aguero’s equaliser – the third time in three games that he’s won a penalty for his side.

All of a sudden it seems that Sterling has got his attitude right – most likely helped by Guardiola’s influence – and the pattern lately seems to be that when he plays well, City generally do too.

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