Here it is. The final dance, the big finale – the play-off final. Hull City against Sheffield Wednesday, at Wembley.
With the stakes higher than ever before, the two Yorkshire clubs will go to battle in order to gain promotion to the Premier League, in what will be a spectacle for football fans worldwide.
Sheffield Wednesday may have been underdogs after slipping into sixth spot, but a 2-0 home leg victory followed by a 1-1 draw on the road was enough to book the Owls in for a trip to the final, at the expense of the third-placed Brighton and Hove Albion. Hull City will go into the match as unconvincing favourites following a 2-0 defeat to Derby County last time out. Having won the first leg 3-0, City scraped through to Wembley for a third visit in two years.
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With Modou Sougou and Joe Bennett sidelined, but no fresh injury concerns for Carlos Carvalhal’s side, the main men the Tigers defence need to worry about will be Fernando Forestieri and Gary Hooper, who have fifteen and thirteen goals to their names this season. Another to worry about will be Ross Wallace, who netted in both semi-final legs against Brighton and Hove Albion. Kieran Westwood was heroic in the previous meeting between the two clubs and has consistently been one of the best keepers in the Championship, meaning it could be a low scoring affair if Sheffield are to win.
Sheffield Wednesday expected starting XI (4-4-1-1): Westwood; Hunt, Lees, Loovens, Pudil; Lee, Lopez, Bannan, Wallace; Forestieri; Hooper.
There are similarly no fresh injury concerns for Hull, but Allan McGregor will likely continue on the sidelines with a back injury, meaning Eldin Jakupovic will start between the posts. Andrew Robertson, Michael Dawson, Curtis Davies and Moses Odubajo will occupy the backline, with Robert Snodgrass, Jake Livermore, Tom Huddlestone and Ahmed Elmohamady the likely midfield. David Meyler may get the nod over Huddlestone, who was an early withdrawal in the previous match against Derby. Expect Mohamed Diame to sit behind Abel Hernandez once more up front. Arguably the most impressive player in Hull’s semi-final legs was Odubajo, so expect him to be key in both offense and at the back. The Tigers’ talisman, Hernandez, is one of only three players in the league to hit 20 goals for the season and is very capable of troubling the Wednesday defence with his pace.
Hull City expected starting XI (4-4-1-1): McGregor; Odubajo, Dawson, Davies, Robertson; Elmohamady, Livermore, Huddlestone, Snodgrass; Diame; Hernandez.
History is on the side of the Owls in this one, having beaten Hull City 20 times, drawing 18 and losing only 11. The previous meetings this season have both ended in draws – 1-1 at Hillsborough, where the City defence looked rather nervous, but Hernandez was able to rule out Fernando Forestieri’s opener. Goalkeeping heroics at both ends kept that scores level, and this continued on to the next meeting where it finished 0-0 at the KC Stadium. Based on away games alone, Wednesday would have finished the season in 11th, with City not far ahead in 9th. However, a neutral ground will eliminate this factor for both sides.
The nerves will be on show for both side early on, but once the match settles down, the big game experience of most of the City squad will get them through.
Hull City 2 Sheffield Wednesday 1
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