Dom Howson’s Sheffield Wednesday column: What needs to happen for the Owls to win the Sheffield derby

Sheffield Wednesday boss Jos Luhukay is under growing pressure after four successive defeats
Sheffield Wednesday boss Jos Luhukay is under growing pressure after four successive defeats
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It is the first time in years that Sheffield Wednesday head into the Steel City derby as big underdogs.  

Sheffield United are overwhelmingly strong favourites with the bookies and pundits to win the 130th instalment of this long-running rivalry.

United sit third in the standings - 14 places above the Owls - and have home advantage. By contrast, Wednesday have lost four Championship matches on the bounce and a big proportion of the fan-base have turned on under pressure boss Jos Luhukay.

Things look bleak for the Dutchman but it is not beyond the realms of possibility that Wednesday could pull off the upset at Bramall Lane tomorrow night.

Here are a few things the Owls need to do upset the odds.

Do the fundamentals well

Opponents have not had to work hard to break Wednesday down this season. Luhukay's men have the joint-worst defensive record in the division, conceding 30 goals in 16 outings. Teams have capitalised on the Owls' sloppy, individual errors at the back.

I can see Luhukay reverting to a three-man defence against United. It is the formation that arguably suits his personnel the most and it worked well the last time they played their neighbours.

But regardless of what system Wednesday play, Luhukay's team must get back to being compact, organised and difficult to beat if they are to stop the rot.

Get the ball forward quicker

Luhukay demands his side play out from the back. He wants them to dominate the ball and build intricate attacks.

The trouble is Wednesday aren't Manchester City. They don't have the personnel to execute that brand of football. The goalkeeper and defenders have frequently put themselves in trouble by playing around with the ball deep inside their own half.

Luhukay remains convinced his philosophy will eventually come to fruition but, in tough times, managers sometimes have to tweak their approach. Perhaps now is the time to adopt a more direct style of play.

Steven Fletcher is in good form so if they can move the ball from back to front quicker then he can bring others into the game.

Stop Mark Duffy weaving his magic

The wily attacking midfielder is poised to start after recovering from a hip complaint.

Duffy, one of the heroes of last season’s 4-2 triumph at Hillsborough, is United's creative spark. The former Birmingham City player possesses the quality, technique, craft and intelligence to unlock defences at this level. He makes things happen.

Wednesday must close Duffy down quickly and stop him getting on the half turn. If the Owls give Duffy too much time and space to run into, he can provide the ammunition for Billy Sharp and company.