‘Aston Villa is a must-not-lose game,’ says Sheffield Wednesday star
Midfield enforcer Sam Hutchinson claims Sheffield Wednesday's promotion dream will be over if they lose to play-off rivals Aston Villa this weekend.
The Owls entertain Steve Bruce's former club aiming to stretch their unbeaten Championship run to 13 matches.
But time is running out for Wednesday to gatecrash the top-six. Bruce's squad, who have won five and drawn six of his 11 matches in charge, are currently four points and five places adrift of sixth-placed Villa in the table with seven fixtures left to play.
Speaking exclusively to The Star, Hutchinson said: "If we lose to Villa, we are out of it really.
"Obviously, there would still be a chance mathematically. If we beat them, then you think you can beat anyone because they are the in-form team in the Championship."
Villa will head to Hillsborough in high spirits, having won five in a row to move into the play-off positions.
Hutchinson reckons the Owls will require a minimum of five victories to sneak into the top-six.
Sign up to our Sheffield Wednesday newsletter
The i newsletter cut through the noise
"This is an added bonus because no one thought we would be in the mix," he stressed. "If we get there, great. If we don't, then we have got something to build on for next season."
Even if Wednesday fail to go up this season, Hutchinson believes solid foundations have been laid for the future.
He said: "I think we will be going in really good shape (into next season). We have got people coming back from injury that have not been playing for a while and people starting from afresh next season.
"Hopefully new players come in and you go with a manager from the off next season that is ready to go in the Championship and knows the Championship really well and that will get us well drilled and ready to go."
Winger Rolando Aarons (ankle) remains a big injury concern, but centre-forward Steven Fletcher (groin) is winning his fitness battle.