If there’s one day on the fixture calendar that anything can happen, it’s Boxing Day, and Wednesdayites will be hoping the unexpected happens when table-toppers Newcastle United arrive at S6 on Saturday.
A betting man would have a field day on the Geordies picking up three-points against managerless Wednesday, who currently occupy the final relegation place in the Championship.
But Owls’ caretaker boss Sean McAuley will no doubt have his men fired up for the visit of the Toon Army in his second game in charge, with the Sky TV cameras in place, and a bumper crowd set for Hillsborough.
Owls caretaker boss Sean McAuley told the official SWFC website:
‘We have been planning for the two games in quick succession and after training today I will meet with the players to set targets for the remainder of the season.
‘The targets will be set and I think they need to understand that as players. That doesn’t mean I am in charge for the rest of the season but it is important for the players to know what lies ahead. The planning is more about what points they need to achieve for the rest of the season.’
Newcastle boss Chris Hughton told the official NUFC website of allowing his side time off on Christmas Day:
‘It was something we spoke about before the Middlesbrough game and the feeling was that if we got a good result then this group of lads deserved that time off.
‘They’re very good professionals and are very trustworthy and I had no worries about giving them that reward.’
Wednesday Team News:
Wednesday have no fresh injury concerns going into the clash with the league leaders, but they could be boosted by one of the Toon’s old foes.
Former Sunderland man Michael Gray has been one of Wednesday’s top performers in a difficult season so far, and he’ll be set to return to the squad following injury.
But another former Sunderland man, Tommy Miller, won’t recover in time.
McAuley could well tamper with his starting line-up after his last one failed him against Swansea City, a match which Wednesday lost 2-0 last weekend.
Etienne Esajas, Frank Simek, Richard Hinds and Francis Jeffers will all be pushing for a starting place, with the latter the most likely to get the nod in attack.
Player to watch: Marcus Tudgay
The Owls’ top scorer has come under some criticism from Wednesdayites of late, and he’ll need to up his game to try and help the Owls to three points against Newcastle, and help them up the Championship table in the process.
Newcastle United Team News:
Newcastle boss Chris Hughton gave his men Christmas Day off for training, and he’ll be hoping his table-topping squad pay them back with three points at Hillsborough.
Former Leeds and Manchester United man Alan Smith looks set for a place in the squad after recovering from an ankle injury.
Striker Shola Ameobi is also set to be passed fit after picking up a knock in Toon’s 2-0 victory over local rivals Middlesbrough last time out.
Andy Carroll is also available for selection again after missing the Middlesbrough match through suspension, while Marlon Harewood could feature for the last time with his loan stint at the club about to come to an end.
Player to watch: Kevin Nolan
The former Bolton man has been a key cog in Newcastle’s rise to the top in the Championship this season. His midfield engine is second to none, and he can help out with the odd goal or three when needed.
Match Facts & Stats
Wednesday wins: 39
Newcastle wins: 56
Last Time Out:
Newcastle 1-0 Wednesday
St James’ Park, 19/08/09
Shola Ameobi’s 15th minute strike proved enough for Newcastle earlier in the season. Wednesday battled well though and could well have snatched a point from the clash.
v Blackpool (a) – 28/12/09
v Crystal Palace (h, Cup) – 02/01/10