On Wednesday, Hillsborough Stadium with host a crucial playoff semi-final second leg, between local rivals Sheffield Wednesday and Huddersfield Town. The first leg ended 0-0 – a cagey affair in which neither side were able to get the breakthrough goal.
It has been estimated that the potential financial windfall for this year’s Championship Playoff Final is around £170m. An eye-watering figure, capable of assisting the victor in establishing themselves as a top-tier side.
While often condemned as essentially a lottery process; the agony and ecstasy of the playoffs makes for a truly compelling spectacle.
The Terrier’s took Sheffield Wednesday by surprise, launching attack after attack in the opening quarter of the match. Gary Roberts' surging runs down the left-wing left Wednesday vulnerable at the back, and in the 12th minute a whipped cross from the Welshman was met by a powerful Rhodes header. Lightning struck twice four minutes later, as Roberts and Rhodes combined with an almost identical second goal.
The Owls hit back quickly via a towering header from skipper Rob Jones. Within two minutes they had equalised, Reda Johnson capitalising on a moment of defensive madness from Huddersfield. The momentum stayed with Wednesday in the second half, seeing Ben Marshall’s cool finish give them the lead in the 62nd minute.
This was not to be the case, as Huddersfield produced a memorable final fifteen minutes. Jordan Rhodes netted his hat-trick in the 76th minute, once again linking up with Roberts to great effect. The young Scot snatched a point for the Terriers in injury time, sparking scenes of jubilation from the traveling supporters.
Prior to last Sunday's goalless draw between the two sides, Sheffield Wednesday were the team in the better form, winning four of the previous five matches. Huddersfield town had only won one in five, however they were somewhat controversially resting players in preparation for the playoffs in some of these matches.
The 0-0 at the John Smith Stadium was in many ways a classic playoff semi-final first leg, in that the away team, Sheffield Wednesday, set out to avoid defeat. The nerves in the first leg of the tie were clearly visible in both sides, with neither team willing to push forward and take a risk to take the lead. Sheffield Wednesday did the necessary; soaking up pressure and remaining rigid in their formation.
Huddersfield Town were not without opportunities; Chelsea loanee Izzy Brown’s scuffed shot clipped the bar early on in first half. The second half saw Nahki Wells draw two fine saves from opposition goalkeeper Keiren Westwood. Wednesday managed just three shots on goal, one of which on target, during the match.
Aaron Mooy produced a performance typical of his season so far; combining fantastic positional awareness with play-making abilities in the heart of the Terriers’ midfield.
Sheffield Wednesday manager Carlos Carvalhal will be sweating over the fitness of both Gary Hooper and Sam Hutchinson heading into Wednesday night's game. Winger Marco Matias remains suspended following his sending off against Fulham in the Owls' last match of the regular season.
For Huddersfield Town, there are no fresh injury concerns ahead of the clash. Long-term absentees Kasey Palmer (achilles) and Gorenc-Stankovic (knee) remain sidelined. Star goalkeeper Danny Ward returns from a suspension, which ruled him out of the first leg.
Potential Sheffield Wednesday starting lineup: Westwood; Hunt; Lees; Loovens; Pudil; Bannan; Hutchinson; Wallace; Reach; Hooper; Forestieri
Potential Huddersfield Town starting lineup: Ward; Smith; Hefele; Schindler; Löwe; Hogg; Mooy; Kachunga; Brown; Van La Parra; Wells
Huddersfield Town haven't managed to defeat Sheffield Wednesday since November 2013, failing to score in the last four matches against the Owls. Wednesday have won four out of five of the team's recent encounters, handing them a psychological advantage over their opponents.
Sheffield Wednesday were slightly fortunate to escape the John Smith Stadium with a draw and a clean sheet, but that result puts them in the driving seat for the second leg. The atmosphere at Hillsborough will be electric, which could give the Owls the inspiration they need to claim victory.
Prediction: Sheffield Wednesday 2-0 Huddersfield Town