The Owls and the Black Cats will lock horns at the Stadium of Light before the return leg at Hillsborough on Monday, with both Darren Moore and Alex Neil eager to see their team triumph and take a step closer to the Championship.
Several players will be key over the two legs, and we had a look at who the top performers have been in various departments - statistically – as he we head into two massive games of football.
Ross Stewart - 24
Lee Gregory - 16
The most important thing in football, goals. For Sunderland, Stewart has been a key part of their climb up the table and into the play-off places, scoring lots of vital goals and finishing the season as the league’s second highest-scorer. Gregory, meanwhile, has scored eight in his last eight and – despite missing some games through injury – is Wednesday’s highest scorer in years.
Alex Pritchard/Daniel Neil - 7
Barry Bannan - 12
This Friday's hosts have had their assists spread out over the season, and going into the play-offs it’s Pritchard and Neil who have contributed the most goal creations – both have played 36+ league games, and will be hoping to add to their tally over the next week. For Bannan, there’s a race for fitness that he's facing, and Wednesday are undoubtedly less of a threat without him in it – his 12 assists showcase that.
Key passes per game:
Aidan McGeady - 2.4
Barry Bannan - 2.7
McGeady has had a difficult season on the injury front, and may only play a bit-part role against Wednesday given his recent return from injury – however having him potentially back is a boost for Sunderland. It comes as no surprise that Bannan, the heartbeat of the Owls’ midfield, is his side's top creator.
Average passes per game:
Danny Batth - 54.3
Barry Bannan - 54.1
An interesting element here is that Wednesday’s most regular passer is a central midfielder, while Sunderland’s is a centre back. Both Batth and Bannan average just over 54 passes per game, and the duo will be keen to effect the game as much as possible on Friday if given the chance.
Ross Stewart - 127
Lee Gregory - 85
Again, the fact that the club's two top scorers have had the most shots will come as no surprise whatsoever. Stewart and Gregory will have a massive role to play in terms of which team ends up making it to Wembley, and it’d be a brave better who went against either of them making their mark over the next week.
Most successful dribbles:
Lynden Gooch - 34
Barry Bannan - 51
Another statistic that Bannan tops for Wednesday is successful dribbles. It's not a part of his game that he’s particularly well known for, but he’s certainly got some close control in his locker. Gooch has only missed eight games in League One this season, and is expected to start at the Stadium of Light once again on Friday.
Carl Winchester - 80
Massimo Luongo - 82
Both Winchester and Luongo have been key figures for their respective teams this season, though the former has been utilised in various different positions – most out on the right – and the latter has exclusively been used in central midfield. No player in the league has averaged more tackles per game than Wednesday’s Australian, while Winchester has played 45 games in all competitions and will almost definitely make it 46 this weekend.
Callum Doyle - 47
Sam Hutchinson - 50
Manchester City defender, Doyle, has had a tremendous season on loan in the North East, and will be eager to finish it on a high if possible. Like Hutchinson he plays in the heart of defence, and was also brought up in a top academy. ‘Hutch’ has endured play-off disappointment before, and won’t want to go through that again.
Most aerial duels won:
Ross Stewart – 248
Chey Dunkley – 147
Given that only six players in the entire league have won more aerial duels than Stewart, Moore will no doubt be very aware of the threat that he poses in the air. It remains to be seen whether the Owls manager may look to Dunkley to try and counter that, but the Wednesday defender is fifth in the league in terms of most aerial duels won per game (7).
Ron-Thorben Hoffman - 61
Bailey Peacock-Farrell - 105
While Peacock-Farrell has been Wednesday’s undisputed number one this season – only missing games due to international breaks – Sunderland have two goalkeepers that have played 18+ league games, with Hoffman making more saves than Anthony Patterson. However Patterson (with 41 saves) has been first-choice for a while now, and has only lost twice in 16 matches since regaining his spot between the sticks earlier this year.
Wednesday face Sunderland at 7.45pm on Friday night before the Black Cats make the trip to Hillsborough for a game at the same time on Monday, with the winner over two legs going on to face either MK Dons or Wycombe Wanderers at Wembley.
Moore, and long-serving defender, Liam Palmer, will be talking to the media on Thursday to give updates and thoughts on the games – with Bannan’s availability certainly set to be on the agenda.