Hull have conceded just two goals in 10 matches since FA Cup third round weekend, so it might be in Sheffield Wednesday’s interests to prioritise a clean sheet at the KC Stadium rather than waste time and energy trying to devise a strategy capable of picking the Tigers apart. Go for the 0-0, and who knows you might just nick a goal out of nothing.
Hull’s current defensive record is all the more remarkable for chopping and changing of the rearguard. Only in the last four league outings has Steve Bruce been able to field is first-choice centre back partnership of Michael Dawson and Curtis Davies, so the secret is clearly in the structure of their 4-4-1-1 system and the discipline of players further up the pitch.
With Dawson and Davies back together, Hull aren’t even conceding shots on target. Brighton and Ipswich both played variations of 4-5-1 against the Humbersiders in the past two weeks, and they called Allan McGregor into action just once over 180 minutes. If Carlos Carvalhal doesn’t follow the blueprint laid out by Chris Hughton to secure a 0-0 the Tuesday before last, it would be a surprise.
Wednesday are the only remaining team in the top ten to visit the KC, and only Jacob Butterfield has managed to find the net in those previous eight matches. No fewer than six of those teams were sent packing in routine fashion with Hull not just bagging the points but also clearing the handicap. That’s the fate that awaits those who put themselves in a position where they have to chase.
Wednesday themselves have previous for playing 4-4-1-1 in the more challenging fixtures, a system that brought goalless draws against Brighton, QPR and Derby before Christmas, as well as clean sheets against Newcastle and Arsenal in the Capital One Cup, and a narrow 1-0 defeat to Middlesbrough over the festive period. Boro were fresher that evening, on the back of a Boxing Day postponement, and Christian Stuani netted after just 44 seconds, yet still it was a game of few chances.
So there’s ample evidence to make a pretty safe call about how the visitors will approach this and the quick turnaround for both teams only supports a bet on ‘no goalscorer’ at 7/1. The awareness that fatigue might be the decisive factor only heightens the leaning towards uncertainty avoidance.
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