Sheffield Wednesday will be aiming to keep their slim hopes of reaching the play-offs alive on Saturday when they head to Deepdale to face Preston North End.
Steve Bruce’s side are four points adrift of sixth-place Derby County in the Championship and know that anything other than a victory against the Lilywhites will bring their season to a premature end.
Preston’s 2-0 defeat to Wigan Athletic on Easter Monday ruled them out of the running for the play-off places after a spirited effort by boss Alex Neil to get them into contention over the past two months.
Although they now have nothing to play for this season, the Lancashire-based outfit will be wanting to put on a positive showing for their supporters in their final home game of the year.
With the upcoming fixture destined to be settled by whose strike-force can dominate proceedings, it will be intriguing to see whether Sean Maguire or Gary Hooper will come out on top. Although both players are lethal in-front of goal when at their very best, the battle below will reveal who is better suited for second-tier football.
After missing 15 months of action due to a serious injury, Gary Hooper finally made his return for Wednesday in their clash with Stoke City at the end of March before scoring his first goal of the season in a 3-1 defeat to Aston Villa a week later.
Before his long spell on the sidelines, the forward had reached double figures for the Owls twice in three years and therefore it will be interesting to see whether Bruce offers him a new contract when his current deal expires in the summer (via Transfermarkt).
At the age of 31, Hooper is edging towards the twilight of his career and therefore if he wants to stay at Hillsborough next season, he will have to use the next two fixtures to highlight just why it is worth keeping him at the club.
TT GRADE: B
After delivering a sensational return of goals in the League of Ireland Premier Division for Cork City in 2016 and 2017, Sean Maguire was signed by Preston North End prior to the start of last season.
Despite concerns that he may not be able to adapt to the pace and power of the Championship, the 24-year-old found the back of the net on 10 occasions in his debut campaign for the Lilywhites as he helped them to a seventh-place finish.
Unfortunately for Maguire, a myriad of injury problems this year has seen him fail to replicate the same levels of performance in the second tier as he has only scored three goals in 24 appearances. Although these setbacks have undoubtedly limited the forward’s development of late, there is no reason why he cannot bounce back next season for Preston and fire them into contention for promotion to the Premier League.
TT GRADE: B+
With both forwards struggling from injury issues this season, it is fair to say that neither Hooper or Maguire have been able to replicate the form which has seen them terrorise Championship defences in the past.
However, when you compare the current situations that both players find themselves in, the Preston forward just edges this battle as he still has room to develop in the future whilst Hooper is approaching a crossroads in his career.
Wednesday and Lilywhites fans, who do you think wins this battle? Join the discussion by commenting below.
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