Another midday Saturday lunchtime encounter at the weekend as we make what might well be our first ever trip to Huddersfield’s ‘new’ stadium. The Terriers were trailblazers when they first moved in to the McCain Stadium and I may well be wrong but I can’t remember us being drawn against them in a cup in the intervening years so for our initial visit there to be a Premier League game in full view of the Sky cameras certainly says something about something, probably that whoever is running Huddersfield at present is doing an astute job with probably the most percipient decision being the appointment of David Wagner at the start of last season as Terrier-In-Chief.
The German’s reputation as an aficionado of the pressing game came before him but the way he successfully implemented the strategy caught people by surprise and whilst in the end Huddersfield only just crept over the promotion line thanks to two penalty shootouts, it’s a testament to the coach that one of the Championship’s preseason relegation favourites were anywhere near the playoffs let alone that they finished top of the pile.
In those few paragraphs I’ve encapsulated what most people knew about Huddersfield in August but to the above list we can now add dogged defensiveness and no sign whatsoever that they are likely to be overawed in their first season amongst their chiefly chequebook led new companions. Having said that and with due respect to Palace, Newcastle, Southampton, Burnley and West Ham (not really), we are their first glamour (ah shucks, really?) opponents of the season. Thus far they have won two and drawn three of their six games with the only defeat coming at London Stadium. Their nine points puts them eighth – a win at the weekend would mean they climb above us and in to the top four.
Will that happen? The bookies don’t think so. We are 4/11 to complete our sixth away league win in a row and whilst our recent record backs them up and it’s not quite true to say that the Fates are pulling the Rug from under us, things could be going a tad smoother. Wanyama, Dembélé and of course Rose and Lamela are injured, Aurier is suspended and Eriksen is recovering from whatever ailed him midweek. Beyond the physical we still have doubts about Sissoko, Trippier and Wembley that mean that anxiety levels are higher than they might be so….. we’ll just have to rely on Vertonghen, Alli, Son and of course the currently, unless you’re Swansea, unstoppable Harry Kane. Nine goals already and he’s hit the woodwork five times as well.
The home team have injuries too with Mounie being their main problem. They will be energetic and focused and feel that they have something to prove. Recently we’ve switched to getting results by playing on the break but whether that’s more by luck than judgement I’m not sure. All of a sudden possession isn’t quite so key to our success, but then maybe that’s because Dembele has been struggling.
As usual an early goal will help, easier said than done though given their recent defensive record and the lack of speed on our wings due to Aurier’s suspension.
Neil Swarbrick is the referee.
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