Sheffield Wednesday welcome play-off-chasing Cardiff City to Hillsborough Stadium on Easter Monday in what has to be described as a must-win fixture for the Owls if they are to have any sort of hope in their bid for survival.
Wednesday have only picked up four points from a possible 30 and, currently, it seems like their chances of staying in the EFL Championship are all but gone.
The Owls may be encouraged with their recent record against Cardiff, having lost just one of their last 10 meetings, though they have only won three of those fixtures.
The Bluebirds, however, must pick up their form if they are going to keep up with the chasing pack, having only won one of their last five games.
Manager Darren Moore will miss the visit of Cardiff after testing positive for COVID-19. The 46-year-old has to take extra care due to an underlying health condition. He also missed Friday’s defeat to Watford due to this.
It is unknown as to whether Keiren Westwood will be back and ready to start Monday’s game.
Massimo Luongo, Dominic Iorfa and Moses Odubajo are all still out with long-term injuries.
Joel Bagan has undergone shoulder surgery and will play no part, while former Owls loanee Joe Bennett is some way off a return from an ACL injury.
Sheffield Wednesday (3-4-1-2):
Wildsmith; Urhoghide, Lees, Börner; Palmer, Pelupessy, Hutchinson, Harris; Bannan; Windass, Rhodes.
Cardiff City (3-4-3):
Phillips; Nelson, Flint, Brown; Ng, Pack, Vaulks, Ralls; Wilson, Moore, Ojo.
The Owls’ performances have picked up slightly under Moore, however, their results have not.
Wednesday have only won one game in 10 – six of those matches have been in Moore’s stewardship – and are currently 23rd in the Championship table.
In their last fixture, they succumbed to a narrow 1-0 defeat to second-placed Watford, where a controversial seventh-minute own goal from Tom Lees gave the Hornets three points.
The Owls now have just eight games to recover that seven-point gap and secure their survival in the division.
Since then, however, City have only won two of their next seven games, meaning they need to turn their form around if they are to sneak into the play-offs.
Ones to watch
Sheffield Wednesday – Jordan Rhodes
The out-of-contract forward has equalled his Championship best goals tally whilst with the Owls – scoring six in a loan spell with Norwich City in the 2018/19 campaign – and, of recent, has been a star performer in Moore’s side.
Rhodes has three goals and one assist in his last four games for the Owls and could be a key figure in Wednesday’s final run in.
The 31-year-old also scored in their previous meeting with City in the season’s opener.
Cardiff City – Aden Flint
Aden Flint spent the first half of the season on loan with the Owls, however, a hamstring injury kept him out for several months and the 31-year-old only made four appearances whilst at Hillsborough.
Flint has since become a key figure for McCarthy, making 15 appearances and picking up a goal and an assist since McCarthy's appointment.
The centre-half averages 0.6 tackles per 90 and makes 1.6 clearances as part of a back three in South Wales.
Wednesday were victorious the last time these two met on the season’s opener.
Josh Windass opened the scoring in the fourth minute at the Cardiff City Stadium.
Rhodes then added a second just before the break to give the Owls a commanding lead, which they held onto in the second period.
What the managers have said
Assistant manager Jamie Smith – who was the Owls’ sixth person taking charge of a Wednesday side this season due to Moore’s absence on Good Friday – says that he has seen improvements from Wednesday and would like to see them implement these into the Cardiff fixture.
“We weren’t happy with the manner of the goal but it’s gone now and we look forward to Cardiff.
“We will go into the game with confidence and we will play to win. We can see the improvements and the progress we have made in recent weeks.
“We will take those positives into the Cardiff game and the remaining games we have left.”
McCarthy discussed the importance of remaining positive and bouncing back against the Owls on Monday evening.
“I said to the players: ‘I’m disappointed, you’re disappointed, but it’s what we do with that disappointment.’ There are more positives around here than there are negatives, that’s for sure,” said McCarthy, following Friday’s defeat.
“There’s not a lot been going wrong; we’re talking about a 45-minute performance against Forest where we didn’t play as well as we have in the past two months.
“Then I thought the second 45 minutes were much better. Whether we did create enough clear-cut chances to deserve something, I don’t know, but we were certainly the better side in the second half.
“So, we’ll go to Sheffield Wednesday and try to replicate the second half, rather than the first half.”
Where to watch
The match will be shown live on Sky Sports Football from 5pm. This means that there will be no match streaming through iFollow or Cardiff City TV. Audio passes, however, are still available through both club’s respected websites.