Sheffield Wednesday: Carlos Carvalhal issues Owls warning
It is a safe bet that the Championship promotion race will throw up further twists and turns over the coming months.
The second-tier is a competitive, unpredictable division - and that’s why Wednesday boss Carlos Carvalhal will continue to pay little attention to the table.
His mantra has, and will always be, to focus on one match at a time.
It is a principle which has served the charismatic Portuguese chief pretty well so far as he boasts an impressive 45.2 win percentage from his 84 matches in charge. Only Harry Catterick (55.80 per cent) and Vic Buckingham (47.01) can trump Carvalhal’s record.
After a patchy start to his reign, Carvalhal turned around the Owls’ fortunes, earning plenty of plaudits after leading the club to the play-off final last May.
It has been tougher for Wednesday this time around but Carvalhal’s men remain firmly in contention to go up. With 20 matches left, Wednesday lie in sixth position, five points clear of nearest rivals Derby County.
But Carvalhal has warned his players to guard against complacency.
“I don’t care too much about that (being five points clear of Derby),” he told The Star. “I must focus my players on Brighton on Friday. It is the most important game of the season because it is the next one. Let’s see what we can do.
“Look at what has happened in the past. In the last few seasons, there have been teams in position to get promoted and then they miss a few players and didn’t achieve what they wanted to.
“Injuries and suspensions can affect all teams.”
As far as Carvalhal is concerned, the Championship is the “hardest competition” in world football.
“The sides are very equal,” he said. “Teams at the bottom
beat teams fighting directly for promotion. That is the Championship.
“We achieved one point at Preston and people weren’t happy but Preston are a tough team and they beat Brighton 2-0 last weekend.
“This competition is very hard so you have to focus on one game at a time.”
Carvalhal is adamant there are teams who are “more ready” than Wednesday to challenge for promotion but stressed: “We are improving and will do better in the future. This is what I know. We try to control the things we can do.”
He is confident Gary Hooper will be available for selection when they take on Brighton this Friday. The forward was not risked against Huddersfield Town after suffering a minor knock while on duty for the Owls’ development squad a week ago. Hooper recently returned to first-team training after recovering from a hamstring problem.
“Gary played 60 minutes for the Under-23s but he felt a little pain in his other leg,” conceded Carvalhal. “He was not 100 per cent so we left him out of the Huddersfield game. We didn’t want to take any risks with him. We didn’t want his pain getting any worse.
“Hopefully he will be able to play against Brighton.”