Garry Monk has challenged his Sheffield Wednesday side to evaporate their points deficit by as early as the end of the week, though they will likely need to step up to another level to get anything from a challenging Wednesday night assignment against Brentford.
Two wins, two draws and just the single defeat from the Owls’ opening run of Championship fixtures have seen the 12-point deduction handed to them ahead of the season, for breaching the EFL’s profit and sustainability rules, cut down to just four points.
Most positively, there are reasons for optimism again after Monk put his first summer transfer window in charge to good use. Aden Flint made his debut on loan from Cardiff City in last weekend’s win at Birmingham City, as did another temporary addition in Derby County’s Jack Marriott off the bench, while Callum Paterson has made a good start to life at Hillsborough alongside Josh Windass.
Throw in attacking midfield options like Fisayo Dele-Bashiru, Elias Kahunga and Izzy Brown, and the squad now has both the quality and depth that could be found lacking in an often arduous 2019-20, not to mention a more settled idea of how they would like to play with a fluid system based on a back three.
In ordinary circumstances, Wednesday would currently be in the top half of the table and ahead of Brentford, one of the pre-season promotion favourites after reaching the play-off final last term. Although they have suffered two defeats and a draw amongst their first five games, the signs all suggest that the Bees are just getting started, not least the fact that they have beaten three Premier League teams in the EFL Cup.
Shrugging off the departures of two of last season’s stars, Ivan Toney is hitting form with five goals in his last three games, including both in a routine win over Coventry City on Saturday. Considering the circumstances and the usual difficulty in bouncing back from Wembley defeat, their response has been far from disastrous, and these tricky away trips to Sheffield and then Stoke City will be a good test of whether they are back where they left off last season.
These two sides met in their final clash before lockdown in March, when Thomas Frank’s side ran riot with a 5-0 win at Griffin Park. Since then plenty has changed for both, particularly Wednesday who will be no such pushovers this time. It is just another deficit that they will look to claw back with a vengeance.
Brown could return after missing the last two matches for Sheffield Wednesday with a knee injury, while Liam Palmer (back) will also be checked. The match will come too soon, however, for Tom Lees (groin), Liam Shaw (ankle) and Dominic Iorfa (hamstring), plus long-term absentee Chey Dunkley.
Emiliano Marcondes and Toney were both forced off with niggles in Brentford’s win last weekend, but Frank said they are “nothing I am too worried about”. Christian Norgaard (ankle) will be out for at least six weeks.
Sheff Wed: Dawson; Odubajo, Flint, van Aken; Reach, Luongo, Bannan, Brown, Harris; Paterson, Windass.
Brentford: Raya; Dalsgaard, Jansson, Pinnock, Henry; Marcondes, Jensen, Dasilva; Mbeumo, Toney, Canos.
What the managers have said
Monk has made no secret of his ambitions over the next couple of games, saying: “We know coming into this week there is that possibility of wiping out the 12-point deficit.
“Brentford and Luton will be difficult but we have tried to set the standard high for ourselves this season to really put that mentality where it needs to be.
“If we keep building and gelling and give these guys time, hopefully we will get stronger, while keeping the urgency to get points on the board in every game.”
All teams face a crowded calendar of seven matches over the course of three weeks and Frank, whose Brentford side have already had to endure such a schedule thanks to their EFL Cup run, has outlined how he will approach it.
“It won’t be squad rotation, and not 90 minutes for specific players, but something in between and hopefully some early subs,” he explained.
“I have told the squad that everyone will need to be ready and I trust them when they need to step in.”
Although the last meeting between the teams ended in a hammering by Brentford, the Owls have won the last three ties to be staged at Hillsborough, scoring twice on each occasion.
How to watch
The match is being broadcast live by Sky Sports, and will be shown on Sky Sports Main Event and Sky Sports Football with kick-off at 7.45pm. As a result of the televised coverage, only season ticket holders can watch the match on the clubs’ own streaming services.