Sheffield Wednesday and Middlesbrough supporters are eagerly anticipating the meeting between the two sides in the Championship on Friday night, as the domestic action returns following a two-week break for internationals.
Jos Luhukay’s Owls head into their clash with high-flying Boro in fine form having lost just one of their last nine league games, in which time they have won five including their most recent encounter, a 2-1 success at Bristol City in their final game prior to the international break.
Yet Tony Pulis’ Teesiders are two places and three points better off than Wednesday in the table having won six and drawn four of their opening 12 matches, although they head into their trip to Hillsborough off the back of a 2-0 defeat to Nottingham Forest in their last outing.
And both teams will also be seeking to improve as the season wears on having been reasonably active during the summer window, with Wednesday bringing in the likes of Josh Onomah and Michael Hector, while Pulis lured the likes of Muhamed Besic and Aden Flint to the Riverside Stadium.
And it’s the defensive duo of Hector and Flint which are of particular note, so let’s take a look at how the two compare…
Luhukay’s men were placed under a transfer embargo for much of the summer to seriously thwart their hopes of strengthening the squad, albeit that was lifted late on to give the Owls chief some time to bolster his ranks.
And he did just that by securing the signing of Chelsea defender Hector on loan for the rest of the season, and given the 26-year-old’s versatility and indeed vast amounts of Championship experience, it could prove to be a very shrewd addition indeed.
The Jamaica international played much of his football at second tier side Reading earlier in his career before securing a move to Chelsea back in 2015, yet he has since then failed to appear for the Blues and has instead had to make-do with loan spells, including a time at Hull City last season.
And in helping them stave off relegation under Nigel Adkins, Hector has once again proven his worth at Championship level, and Luhukay is clearly impressed with the 26-year-old given he has started each of Wednesday’s last four league games, winning two and drawing the others.
Thus, given the Owls weren’t able to sign anyone until late on in the window, they did very well to lure Hector to Hillsborough, in a move which could seriously aid them in their push for a play-off place.
TT Verdict: B+
Centre back Flint excelled at Bristol City between 2013 and 2018 in helping the Robins earn promotion to the Championship and then indeed stay there, at the same time becoming one of the best defenders in the division.
The 29-year-old played 246 times for Lee Johnson’s side during his five-year stint at Ashton Gate to prompt Middlesbrough boss Pulis to part with £7.2 million (as per Transfermarkt) to lure him to Teesside, a move which they are already reaping the rewards from.
Flint has started all 12 of Boro’s Championship games this term and has helped Pulis’ men to six victories in that time, but more significantly they have kept eight clean sheets in becoming one of the best defences in the second tier.
And some of that can be put down to the influence of Flint in the heart of the backline, and with a history of coming up with key goals for Bristol City during his time at Ashton Gate, the 29-year-old looks set to play a vital role in what success Boro have this term.
TT Verdict: A
Clearly, both of these defenders have already played a key role in helping their respective sides make a solid start to the new Championship season, and as such look set to play a crucial part in what success their teams may have this term.
Sheffield Wednesday did remarkably well to lure Hector to Hillsborough despite having little time to do deals following a transfer embargo, and with much Championship experience under his belt, he is sure to be a significant member of Luhukay’s squad.
Yet there is little doubting that Middlesbrough’s Flint is a better defender than the Chelsea star, and having made his mark at the Riverside Stadium in helping Pulis’ team to the best defensive record in the second tier at present, the 29-year-old is head and shoulders above the Owls signing.
Middlesbrough and Sheffield Wednesday fans… what do you think? Let us know!