Carlos Carvalhal has revealed his admiration for Newcastle United boss Rafael Benitez as his Owls side continue to fine-tune their preparations for the Boxing Day showdown.
Ex-Liverpool, Chelsea, and Real Madrid chief Benitez has led the Magpies to the Christmas No 1 spot. Only second-placed Brighton and Hove Albion have conceded fewer goals than the Spaniard’s team.
Wednesday head coach Carvalhal is relishing the challenge of facing Benitez for the first time in his career on Boxing Day.
“It will be the first time we have played against each other; it will be a pleasure to meet him,” Carvalhal told The Star. “He has won the Champions League in the past.
“Benitez has done very well at Newcastle.
“It is unbelievable how a team and a club like Newcastle were relegated. It was a surprise as they are a massive club with massive fans.
“Benitez stayed there this season. He showed courage and it was something I appreciate. Even though he is a coach with a big CV, he accepted the challenge and I like these kind of coaches who aren’t afraid to take on challenges.”
Monday’s fixture will mark the halfway point in the season, with Newcastle a point ahead of Brighton.
“Newcastle have a fantastic team, players and they have money to buy some of the best players in the Championship,” said Carvalhal. “They have a big advantage compared to other clubs but it is not a question of money.
“They are in first place because they are fighting, scoring goals and deserve to be there. They are doing very well.
“It will be a good challenge for us and we like challenges. We will be playing against a good team and coach. Our players like these kind of enviroments and we will be ready for it.”