THERE simply hasn’t been a bigger game for Wednesday since the League 1 Play-Off final – it’s do or die on relegation Sunday at Hillsborough.
The Owls could have been down and out already for the game had West Brom not held Palace to a 1-1 draw at Selhurst Park on Monday night.
But a second chance has come around for Alan Irvine and his men, a chance they’ll need to take and attack from the start if they’re to bag the three points to keep them in the Championship.
Palace travel with the third best away record in the league this season but with the knowledge that they wasted their chance to seal their fate last weekend.
It’s going to be a cracker, and it’s live on the BBC from 1pm for those who couldn’t get tickets for the sell-out clash.
Owls midfielder James O’Connor told the official SWFC website:
‘I’m just so relieved we have an opportunity now and we need to grab it with both hands.
‘From our point of view, we know we need to win. Palace are a little bit clouded because they know a draw would do for them – so do they come and try to win the game? Or do they come and play defensively?
‘We will have a massive crowd behind us so it will be a great game and we’re all looking forward to it.’
Alan Irvine told the Sheffield Star:
‘It’s a question of getting the balance right.
‘We know we have to win, so we have to have attacking players in the team. But we can’t play with 11 forwards.
‘If we lose goals it will make our task much, much harder. We will have to go for it; going for it doesn’t mean leaving yourselves open and ending up conceding goals.
‘Palace only need to draw. If they score one it will make their job easier; if they get any more than that it will improve their chances not just of drawing but of getting a win.’
Wednesday Team News:
Wednesday boss Alan Irvine will face the toughest selection choice since his appointment as Owls boss on Sunday.
Irvine knows he needs plenty of attacking quality in his squad for Sunday, but he also realises that his side need to be strong defensively to stop Palace scoring and making it even more difficult for his men.
Wednesday will be boosted with the news that midfielder Tommy Miller is fit and ready to return to action this weekend, although he’s not fully 100% fit yet following a calf tear.
Jermaine Johnson and Lewis Buxton are in a similar boat in that they’re ready to be selected but not at full fitness just yet.
It’s likely that JJ will be giving a starting role given his recent starts in other matches.
Francis Jeffers has been a name on most Wedneddayite’s lips of late, starting from the bench of late but being a possible candidate for a starting role, either in place of Marcus Tudgay and Luke Varney.
It’s expected Irvine will stick with Tudders and Varney for Sunday, despite struggling to find the back of the net in abundance of late, with Johnson adding to the ‘attacking three’.
He has options with Leon Clarke and Tom Soares – against his former club – too, and could use those to counter Palace’s usual 4-3-3 formation.
Sean McAllister also returns for selection but he’ll probably have to make do with a spot on the substitutes bench given his lack of first team game time.
The main decision will probably be on whether Dutch winger Etienne Esajas gets a rare start.
Everyone knows the quality the Dutchman possesses when going forward, but he could well be a liability with his defensive qualities – maybe one to bring on from the bench early doors if things aren’t going according to plan.
Player to watch: Marcus Tudgay
Tudgay, Wednesday’s top scorer last season, has had a poor campaign by all accounts – I’m sure he’ll be the first to admit that too. But if Wednesday ever needed their main goalscorer to come to the forefront, it’s now. On his day he can be a match for any striker in this division – hopefully his day will be Sunday.
Crystal Palace Team News:
Palace will be without one of their key players in Neil Danns for the trip to South Yorkshire.
Danns was sent off in the 1-1 stalemate against West Brom on Monday night for violent conduct in a clash with Baggies’ Graham Dorrans and will be suspended for Palace’s biggest game of the season.
Nick Carle will be the likely replacement for the midfielder.
Hart isn’t expected to tinker with the side that drew with the Baggies in midweek too much on Sunday, although he does have options amongs his substitutes.
Both Alan Lee and Stern John have vast experience at this level and will be pushing for a starting role following a disappointing performance by Calvin Andrew last time out.
The Eagles have no fresh injury concerns for the match.
Player to watch: Julian Speroni
Palace may have a number of good players at their disposal but Speroni performed miracles against the Baggies and will be looking to be just as good to keep Wednesday out this weekend. The Owls are expected to throw men forward – they need a goal and a win – and he’ll need to be at the top of game. He’s one of the best goalkeepers in the division.
Match Facts & Stats
Wednesday wins: 21
Palace wins: 15
Last Time Out:
Wednesday 1-2 Palace
FA Cup, Hillsborough, 2/1/10
The last time Palace came to Hillsborough they progressed to the next round of the FA Cup thanks to a 2-1 victory – the same again will send Wednesday down to League 1. Danns put the visitors ahead before a Clint Hill own goal levelled the scores a minute before the break. But Andrew netted a winner in the 68th minute to send Palace through.