Sunderland v Sheffield Wednesday: An honest view of the Owls from Black Cats expert

Sheffield Wednesday face Sunderland in the first leg of the League One play-off semifinal on Friday night.

Thursday, 5th May 2022, 12:48 pm

It’s set to be a couple of big nights at the Stadium of Light and Hillsborough over the next week, with both sides desperate to book their spot at Wembley and take a step closer to the Championship – however in both cases there is a hefty club standing in their way.

Both the Owls and the Black Cats have Premier League history, and the two clubs have huge fanbases to match it, with 70,000+ expected to attend the two legs – a figure that would make it the highest-attended play-off game in English football history.

We asked Sunderland Echo writer, Joe Nicholson, for an honest view of the Owls before this weekend’s tie, and here’s what he had to say...

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“Looking at how Sheffield Wednesday’s season has played out I think there are parallels to when Sunderland were relegated to League One.

“I’m sure a lot of teams will have seen it as a big scalp to beat the Owls and it probably took Darren Moore’s side a while to adapt to the third tier.

“Wednesday appear to have hit their stride now, though, and the team on paper looks very strong with several players who I’d class as Championship level.

Sheffield Wednesday have won one and lost one when facing Sunderland this season.

The standout Wednesday players...

"Barry Bannan is the obvious one and just has that quality in possession which you’d struggle to find anywhere else in League One.

“Marvin Johnson is a player I’ve seen a lot of after covering Middlesbrough in the Championship last season. It was slightly surprising he wasn’t offered a new deal at the Riverside.

“I also look at the likes of Lee Gregory, Jack Hunt, Liam Palmer and Massimo Luongo and think of players who have all played in the division above.

“Saido Berahino is clearly a talented footballer who was hyped up a few years ago and it now looks like he’s playing a significant part at Hillsborough.

“Even the bench looks very good at League One level, with Josh Windass, Nathaniel Mendez-Laing and Callum Paterson not getting in the starting XI against Portsmouth last time out.

“On paper I would possibly say Wednesday have the better squad and certainly have more experience heading into two massive games.

The managers...

‘However, with respect to Darren Moore who appears to have done a solid job at Wednesday given the situation when he took over, I think Sunderland have the edge with Alex Neil.

“Moore may be a very good coach but Neil has been there and done it through the play-offs, going up from the Championship with Norwich in 2015.

“The Scot often sets his side up based on the opposition’s strengths or weaknesses and admitted last week he’s used Sheffield Wednesday as an example when using the 3-5-2 system for his own team.

“It’s a really close tie to call and will probably produce two very tight matches which could be decided by a mistake or a moment of quality.”