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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Tottenham Hotspur 2-0 Huddersfield Town: Three talking points from Wembley
Son Heung-min was the star of the show as Tottenham Hotspur overcame Huddersfield Town.
A double from Son Heung-min extended Tottenham Hotspur’s unbeaten run to 11 Premier League games and consolidated their position in the top four.
The South Korean international took his tally to 10 for the season with a goal in each half, as Spurs swept past Huddersfield Town at Wembley Stadium.
It was the ideal way for Mauricio Pochettino’s men to warm up for their crunch Champions League last 16 second-leg tie at home to Juventus on Wednesday night.
The Terriers had come into this fixture following timely back-to-back victories that had invigorated their survival bid, but they were completely outplayed and succumbed to a 2-0 defeat.
Here are three talking points…
Son underlines his growing importance to Spurs
It’s no secret that Tottenham rely heavily on Harry Kane to provide the goalscoring threat.
The England international has spearheaded the attack with distinction in the past few years, but on the rare occasions he doesn’t find the net it’s important that another Spurs player stands up.
This season, that man has invariably been Son.
Despite not being deployed as an out-and-out-striker, the former Bayer Leverkusen star, who signed for just £22 million, has chipped in with important goals that have sustained Tottenham’s charge.
After a blistering start to the campaign, Son found himself out of the side for a period. However, he has fought his way back in, contributing with goals and assists.
In all competitions he now has 15 goals this season – that’s six more than Dele Alli – at a strike rate of better than one every two games.
Son’s reliability is one of his strengths and a reason why he is becoming a vital component of the squad under Pochettino.
Bigger battles ahead for below-par Huddersfield
After their recent upturn in form, Huddersfield supporters would have travelled to the national stadium with hope that their side could spring a surprise.
Victories over Bournemouth and West Bromwich Albion had helped the Terriers escape from the drop-zone, in what is a fascinating battle for Premier League survival.
But it was not to be at Wembley, as Spurs flexed their muscles and carried on from where they left off in the second half against Rochdale in midweek.
It sounds obvious, but Huddersfield’s hopes do not rest on results against the likes of Tottenham – it’s the games against their rivals in the lower half of the table that matter.
With that in mind, the next four fixtures could be key to determining the fate of David Wagner’s side.
Next up is a home clash with Swansea City, swiftly followed by matches against Crystal Palace, Newcastle United and Brighton & Hove Albion.
Make or break? It very much could be for Huddersfield.
Spurs’ attentions turn to the Champions League
Professional footballers though they may be, it would have been understandable if Spurs already had one eye on their mouth-watering Champions League encounter with Italian giants Juventus on Wednesday.
At 2-2 the tie is evenly poised, but with home advantage and two away goals in the bank, Tottenham have a realistic opportunity to progress to the last eight of the competition, knocking out last year’s runners-up in the progress.
Spurs are more than capable of reaching the quarter-finals and Pochettino, who celebrated his 46th birthday on Friday, will be buoyed by their recent endeavours.
Their unbeaten sequence, which stretches back to December, is the longest of any top-flight club.
Kane and Son are in prolific form in front of goal, while at the back, only two sides have better defensive records in the Premier League.
Juventus will put up stern resistance, but Tottenham are equipped to overcome the challenge.
Huddersfield Town 0-2 Manchester United: Three talking points from the John Smith’s Stadium
Rob Meech brings us three talking points from the John Smith’s Stadium as Manchester United overcame Huddersfield Town in their FA Cup 5th Round contest.
A brace from sharpshooter Romelu Lukaku fired Manchester United into the quarter-finals of the FA Cup at the expense of Huddersfield Town.
Lukaku opened his account in the third minute before netting his second of the evening shortly after the second-half resumption.
Victory was not as straightforward as the scoreline suggested. However, as the Terriers produced a spirited display after the early setback.
There was also controversy involving the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) system.
Juan Mata saw an effort ruled out for offside after a review, but confusion abounded about whether it had been the correct decision.
Here are three talking points from an eventful encounter, as United set up a last-eight tie with Brighton & Hove Albion…
Lukaku’s goals are a fillip for Jose Mourinho
The Belgian has come in for criticism from some quarters for his goal return since last summer’s big-money transfer from Everton.
While he may not have reached the levels of Harry Kane or Mohamed Salah, Lukaku has now scored 21 times in all competitions for United this season.
That tally was boosted by his double against Huddersfield, which showed off his best attributes.
Lukaku was too strong and clever for Huddersfield’s defence as he latched on to Mata’s through ball for the first, before putting the finishing touch to an Alexis Sanchez pass for his second.
The former Chelsea man’s performance will be the biggest plus for United boss Jose Mourinho, who is relying on him to spearhead the attack for the remainder of the campaign.
Lukaku is a confidence player, so this was a timely boost ahead of a crucial run of fixtures both domestically and in Europe.
VAR under the microscope yet again
The introduction of technology to any sport usually results in teething problems.
It is fair to say VAR has experienced more than its fair share in football this season.
Employed in some FA and League Cup matches, controversy has never been far away. This was again the case at Huddersfield.
Mata appeared to have doubled United’s lead just before half-time, but referee Kevin Friend waited for confirmation from VAR that he had been onside.
After about a minute, Friend disallowed the goal when it was judged that Mata had been fractionally offside as the ball was played.
Contention emerged when viewers saw the incident on TV, where the guidelines were clearly not straight.
In fact, they were embarrassingly wonky.
Further replays suggested – with parallel lines correctly in place – that Mata’s knee had indeed been offside, but it was a very close call and certainly not an obvious mistake by the referee’s assistant.
These technical hitches will need to be ironed out before VAR is brought in universally.
Huddersfield can be positive despite FA Cup exit
With their Premier League status hanging in the balance, it would have been understandable if Huddersfield manager David Wagner had seen this fixture as an unwanted distraction.
But there was absolutely no suggestion that they were trying not to win the match, or prepared to exit the competition without a fight.
The Terriers, who famously beat United at home in the Premier League last October, carried on from where they left off last weekend in the impressive 4-1 victory over Bournemouth.
Conceding so early to United had not been in the script, but the hosts regrouped quickly and caused their opponents plenty of problems.
Ultimately, the difference between the two sides was the quality of finishing.
Whereas the visitors scored with their only two shots on target, Huddersfield wasted numerous openings as they slipped to defeat.
Nevertheless, attention can be turned back to their bid for survival, without their confidence dented.
Huddersfield Town 4-1 Bournemouth: Alex Pritchard steals plaudits after running the show
Rob Meech brings us three talking points from the John Smith’s Stadium as Huddersfield Town took a huge leap in the race for survival with a 4-1 victory over Bournemouth.
Huddersfield Town produced a four-star performance to brush aside Bournemouth and move out of the Premier League relegation zone.
Junior Stanislas quickly cancelled out Alex Pritchard’s seventh-minute opener, but from that moment it was one-way traffic as the Terriers showed their bite on a freezing afternoon in Yorkshire.
A Steve Cook own goal made it 2-1 at half-time before Steve Mounie and a stoppage-time penalty from Rajiv van la Parra completed the drubbing.
Huddersfield climbed to 17th as a result of this much-needed victory, while Bournemouth’s excellent recent form came to an abrupt halt with their first defeat of 2018.
Here are three talking points…
Huddersfield breathe new life into survival bid
Boss David Wagner had highlighted his side’s upcoming run of fixtures as crucial to their ambitions of avoiding relegation back to the Championship.
On the back of five consecutive defeats, Huddersfield had free-fallen into the drop-zone.
Although the win over Manchester United will take some beating in the eyes of the fans, given their predicament this was arguably their most important three points of the campaign.
It was a crushing triumph and one that the Terriers fully deserved.
Yes, they caught the visitors on a bad day, but much of that was due to the nature of Huddersfield’s display.
They gave Bournemouth no time on the ball to play their natural passing game and took their chances when they came along.
Especially from set-pieces, Wagner’s men looked dangerous and exploited the Cherries’ weakness in the air.
The bottom half of the table remains incredibly congested, but this result gives Huddersfield genuine hope that survival is possible.
Bournemouth’s unbeaten run comes to a crashing end
Entering this match at the top of the form table, this was Bournemouth’s worst result of the season.
From the first whistle they were out-battled by a Huddersfield side that were fighting for their lives.
Perhaps an air of complacency had surfaced following the Cherries’ unbeaten sequence, which had stood at seven games and included victories over Chelsea and Arsenal.
Talk of qualifying for the Europa League can now be parked to one side.
Despite being in 10th position, Bournemouth are not assured of survival just yet.
Boss Eddie Howe will back his troops to get the three wins they need to reach the 40-point mark, but this was a reminder that nothing can be taken for granted in the Premier League.
He will be thoroughly bemused by this showing.
It was a day to forget for the Cherries and their dedicated supporters, who had left in the very early hours to embark on the long journey north for this lunch-time kick-off.
Pritchard brings ingenuity to the Terriers’ ranks
Although Huddersfield’s win was a by-product of a real team effort, one player that deserves special praise is new recruit Pritchard.
Signed from Norwich City in the January window, he ran the show in midfield, making the Terriers tick with crisp passing.
Pritchard opened the scoring in the early exchanges with a well-taken finish for his first ever Premier League goal, at the seventh attempt.
He had previously played in the top-flight with Tottenham Hotspur and West Bromwich Albion.
There is always a risk attached to any new signing from a lower division, but Pritchard had demonstrated enough class for Norwich to indicate he would be able to make the step-up.
The 24-year-old will face tougher challenges in his midfield role, but he has brought a touch of guile and class to Huddersfield.
Pritchard’s teasing run that induced the foul for a penalty in added-time underlined his capability to make things happen.
Wagner will hope it is a positive sign for the run-in.
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