Huddersfield Town and Bristol City both appointed new head coaches over the summer. Where one opted for a degree of continuity, with Lee Johnson replaced by his long-time assistant Dean Holden at Ashton Gate, the other demanded change, as Carlos Corberan brought a new style to West Yorkshire.
It all started off so well for Holden, with four wins from four taking them into the first international break top of the table, but ironically it was time away that brought an end to his honeymoon period. Five games without a win, including three defeats, have followed in a manic fortnight since returning and put a dampener on any rising expectations.
There is no reason to be overly concerned yet. Last weekend’s 3-1 defeat to Norwich City was the first time they had been truly outplayed, and even then they had their chances after a slow start. Three days earlier they had pushed unbeaten Bournemouth all the way.
The Robins will need to both start well and last the course when they travel to a team currently moving in the direction in the Championship table. After a tough start to the campaign, Huddersfield have won three matches out of the last five, with the problems in tight defeats to Preston North End and Birmingham City appearing rectified in a 3-0 win at Millwall last time out.
Corberan’s high-pressing, high-tempo principles are being applied with increasing success as his squad becomes more knowledgeable of his demands and more physically capable of applying them. Coming into this match, they are the team with momentum on their side.
It’s a contrast to the way that Bristol City’s impressive start has fizzled out and one side will undoubtedly be more comfortable coming into Tuesday’s clash. The hard work is really beginning now for Holden, who has had a settled team and formation so far but faces his first big challenge as he looks to find a way out of a sticky patch.
For their opponents, demonstrating consistency will be key. It has never been so difficult as in the current hectic schedule, but the teams that make the top six will have to find it somehow. Backing up the last performance, which was a hit combination of concrete, creative and clinical, would signpost the next step in Corberban’s revolution.
Alex Pritchard will miss the game for Huddersfield having been forced off at half-time against Millwall by an ankle injury which will need further assessment. Danny Ward and Alex Vallejo are training after injury and quarantine respectively, but neither is expected to feature before the international break.
Bristol City aren’t expecting to have any players back to lessen their current injury load, with Liam Walsh and Joe Williams still out along with Nathan Baker, Steven Sessegnon, Andreas Wiemann and Alfie Mawson.
Huddersfield: Hamer; Stearman, Schindler, Sarr; Pipa, Eiting, Hogg, O’Brien, Toffolo; Koroma, Campbell.
Bristol City: Bentley; Vyner, Kalas, Moore; Hunt, O’Dowda, Brunt, Bakinson, Rowe; Paterson, Diedhiou.
What the managers have said
Huddersfield may have secured a good win at Millwall at the weekend but Corberan is not resting on his laurels, and has challenged his side to keep on improving their decision-making.
The Spaniard said: “What I saw the other day was the team played with a little bit more calm to see when was the right moment to change the tempo and go for a chance or when was the right moment to leave the runners and play with more simple passes and not put the ball at risk.
"So the most positive thing is to see the team trying to understand the situation and solve well the situation.
“But it’s not easy and if you’ve done it once, it doesn’t mean you’re going to do it again,” he added. “The challenge is to do it again in different contexts, against different opponents, versus different shapes.”
Holden still has belief in his Robins squad after the recent downturn in form, but has identified their defence as the most important thing to improve on after a very open display against Norwich last time.
“It’s always a positive when you create the amount of chances we have but what we need to do is keep the back door shut,” he said. “We haven’t been doing that in recent times and we need to get back to doing that.
“We stick together, we work together every day…we have to keep improving. Behind the scenes we are working really hard to put things right and now I’m looking for a response on Tuesday.
“We look at everything, We’re light on numbers and that might dictate how we approach things moving forward so we have to look at everything, There’s no time for feeling sorry for ourselves…there’s work to do with two games in three days. It’s a test for us but we’ll be ready for it.”
The home side has come out on top in each of the last six fixtures between the two clubs, with Huddersfield winning the last two match-ups at the John Smith’s Stadium 2-1, including the most recent meeting in February.