It has been a long road back to fitness for Fernando Forestieri.
The mercurial forward has spent the majority of the season on the sidelines recovering from a major knee injury.
But Forestieri, a bargain £3m buy from Watford in August 2015, has recovered from surgery and is pushing to make his first Championship start since August at Queens Park Rangers tonight.
The 28-year-old has featured as a substitute in the Owls’ last three outings, scoring in his comeback match against Preston North End.
Now manager Jos Luhukay is preparing to unleash the skilful forward as Wednesday chase a third straight win on the road.
“We must be flexible and I think Fernando is a flexible offensive player,” Luhukay told The Star.
“He can play as a second striker, on the wing or in the number 10 position.
“There are maybe three positions where he can help us.”
As Luhukay was keen to stress at his pre-match press conference yesterday, it is imperative Wednesday protect Forestieri and manage his workload between now and the end of the campaign. The last thing Luhukay needs is for Forestieri to suffer a setback heading into the summer.
He stated: “Fernando was out around seven months and he has now been two weeks back in the team. He has come on two or three times at the end of the games so we try to give him more minutes. We are now discussing whether he can start from the beginning. We want him in a good situation now for the games but we also have a good eye on him to make sure he keeps going in a good direction.”
As he has demonstrated on countless occasions over the last few seasons, Forestieri is a matchwinner at this level. His vision, trickery, close control and dribbling ability make him a difficult man to stop when he is in full flight. His creativity and eye for the spectacular has been a big loss to the team.
Luhukay is confident he can bring the best out of Forestieri.
“I have players who also have that quality in my three years at Hertha Berlin,” he said.
He cited Brazilian midfielder Ronny, who he worked closely with at Hertha, as an example of a flair player who flourished under him.
Luhukay said: “When I came to the club, everyone said to me he [Ronny] must go and that he is not good enough and is not hard working. There were a lot of negative things about him.
“But in my first year, he scored 18 goals and had 10 assists and was one of the important players who helped us get promoted.
“I have a lot of experience with players who are maybe a little bit special. But special players also sometimes have a different character to handle. It is important that you know how to manage the player.
“It is also important that the team see how important that player is and that he can make the difference between winning and not winning a game.”
Along with Forestieri, Marco Matias may also be handed a start at Loftus Road. The Portuguese forward was brought on as a late replacement in Saturday’s home defeat to high-flying Fulham. It was Matias’s first appearance in over two months.
Luhukay said: “Fernando and Marco have been back in the team now for the last two or three weeks. They can maybe options for Tuesday and future games.
“They have been good in training so they are maybe offensive options for us in the games we have left this season.”