THE biggest crowd of the season is expected at Hillsborough on Friday night when Sheffield Wednesday welcome Championship promotion hopefuls and Yorkshire rivals Leeds United.
More than 26,000 tickets have already been sold for the clash, which will be televised live on Sky Sports One, kick-off 7.45pm, as the third-from-bottom Owls look to halt a run of three successive home defeats.
Their highest turn-out to date was the 26,598 for the Bolton Wanderers fixture.
It promises to be Wednesday’s largest attendance since they defeated Wycombe Wanderers 2-0 to secure promotion to the second tier of English football back in May.
Since going up, the Owls have averaged gates of 25,080. Only Brighton and Hove Albion, in fifth position after 10 outings, can top that figure (25,512).
As one of the best supported clubs in the division, Leeds are poised to sell-out their away allocation for the trip to South Yorkshire. The Whites, managed by ex-Sheffield United chief Neil Warnock, sit in seventh-place in the table and trail league leaders Cardiff City by just five points after winning three out of their last four league matches.
It was Wednesday who triumphed the last time the two sides met in a competitive encounter in March 2007 at Elland Road. They edged a five-goal thriller through strikes from Marcus Tudgay, Chris Brunt and Jermaine Johnson.
Wednesday boss Dave Jones is desperate for the team to tighten up and has big personnel and tactical decisions to make before they host Leeds. Jones has to decide whether to recall Johnson, Gary Madine or Rodri to freshen up his attack. Centre-back Martin Taylor is also biding his time waiting for another chance to prove his credentials.
Jones has a tough call to make over what formation the Owls will play. He has favoured 4-1-4-1 in recent matches but his preferred system is 4-4-2.
n Wednesday have designated the three blocks towards the Kop end of the Grandstand (N2, N3 and N4 between seats 168 to 240) as the official family section of Hillsborough. Face painting is available on every matchday on the Grandstand concourse and the club’s mascot ‘Ollie the Owl’ will visit the families within the area during the build up to kick-off.