Dom Howson’s Sheffield Wednesday column: Why Owls hold slight derby edge

Barry Bannan
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Just two more sleeps to go until the 128th Steel City derby.

The Owls and Blades will renew a rivalry renowned for pride and passion at a jam-packed Hillsborough on Sunday afternoon.

Sheffield is a footballing city and there has been a real buzz around the place this week.

These derby duels mean so much to both sets of supporters and are usually too close to call. There’s nothing quite like them and I, for one, am delighted they are back on the agenda for the first time since February 2012.

Let’s just hope come Monday morning we are still talking about the spectacle for all the right reasons.

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It is a match that pitches sixth in the Championship against ninth. Only two points separate them in the table after eight outings.

So who holds the edge and will claim the local bragging rights?

Quite often you hear a lot of managers and players trot out the ‘form goes out the window’ cliche before a derby. Personally, I would rather have momentum than not.

And Wednesday look in good shape as they prepare to face their great rivals. A seven-match unbeaten league run has propelled Carlos Carvalhal’s team into the top half of the table. Since the last international break, the Owls have looked the real deal.

There will be 33,000 plus at S6 this weekend and Wednesday, more often than not under Carvalhal’s leadership, perform well in front of a big crowd. Their results against Arsenal (in the cup), Cardiff City, Brighton and Hove Albion, Norwich City and Newcastle United firmly support that theory. Home advantage could be important and no one should under-estimate ‘the power of Hillsborough’.

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“Our fans will push my players a lot,” said Carvalhal. “My players deserve big support for how they are playing and I’m sure we will be with big support.”

Some managers have made the mistake in the past of downplaying the derby. Not Carvalhal. The Portuguese chief is acutely aware of the significance of the fixture and will have his players well prepared.

“I understand the passion and excitement, I have played many derbies as a coach,” said Carvalhal.

Given the lavish amounts of money they have spent in the transfer market, there is more pressure on Wednesday than United to win. Will the Owls care about going in as favourites? I doubt it.

If Wednesday couldn’t handle the increased expectation levels and attention on them, they wouldn’t have qualified for back-to-back play-offs.

Derbies can be stressful environments and not always for the faint-hearted but Wednesday have plenty of talented, big-match players in their ranks. The likes of Keiren Westwood, Tom Lees, Barry Bannan, Steven Fletcher and Gary Hooper won’t be overawed by the big occasion.

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