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Owls should enjoy that Friday feeling once again

New arrival Rhodes sharpens up Wednesday attack

Jordan Rhodes of Sheffield Wednesday
1 of 1

Sky Bet Championship
Sky Sports 1 & Sky Sports Mix, 7.45pm

It was happy days for Sheffield Wednesday last Friday night and the Owls can kick off this round of Sky Bet Championship fixtures with another significant victory.

Eye-catching loan signing Jordan Rhodes set up Ross Wallace to score the only goal at Wigan a week ago and Wednesday are worth backing to see off a Birmingham side who are the embodiment of average.

The visitors arrive at Hillsborough with a league record of ten wins, ten draws and ten defeats from 30 games but that symmetry may well be spoiled by their hosts.

The Owls' win at Wigan lifted them back into the playoff places and they have been remarkably consistent given their underwhelming goalscoring record.

A tally of 34 goals in 29 games isn't usually the stuff of promotion campaigns but, with Rhodes and Sam Winnall arriving and Gary Hooper approaching a return to full fitness, Wednesday now have an impressive array of strikers.

Top scorer Fernando Forestieri is a clever talent at Championship level while Winnall and Rhodes are quality finishers who should boost the Yorkshire club's push for the playoffs.

They lost September's reverse fixture 2-1, with Birmingham scoring twice in the last ten minutes, but their record at home to teams below them in the table is excellent: eight wins in ten games.

The Owls' only league defeats since the start of December have come against high-flying Reading and Brighton and they have won four of their last five home games, conceding just one goal during that run.

Wednesday's stout defence may not be unduly worried about facing a Birmingham side who have done little to justify the owners' decision to replace Gary Rowett with Gianfranco Zola in December.

Zola finally earned a league win - at the 11th time of asking - with last weekend's 1-0 victory over ten-man Fulham but that result is unlikely to be a major turning point for the mid-table Blues.

They have scored only three goals in six league games in 2017 - all from striker Lukas Jutkiewicz, including one penalty - and their recent clashes with top-eight teams produced a 2-0 defeat at Norwich and a 1-0 loss at home to Reading.

Splitting stakes on the 1-0 and 2-0 home win at Hillsborough could be the best betting strategy given Wednesday's ability to grind out wins and Birmingham's lack of bite up front.

Zola hasn't been helped by the injuries to regular centre-backs Ryan Shotton and Michael Morrison but the Owls are efficient rather than expansive and boss Carlos Carvalhal will be quite happy with another unflashy win.

Recommendations
Sheffield Wednesday to win 1-0 1pt 11-2 general
Sheffield Wednesday to win 2-0 1pt 8-1 Paddy Power, Sky Bet

Bet on this game at Soccerbase.com


Team news
Sheffield Wednesday
Defender Tom Lees is a major doubt but Sam Hutchinson returns from suspension. Morgan Fox is fit again and striker Gary Hooper is nearing a return to action. 

Birmingham
Striker Clayton Donaldson and regular centre-backs Ryan Shotton and Michael Morrison remain sidelined. Jacques Maghoma (knee) is also out after picking up an injury at the Africa Cup of Nations.

Key stat
Birmingham have failed to score in five of their six defeats against teams in the top half

A tally of 34 goals in 29 games isn't usually the stuff of promotion campaigns but, with Rhodes and Sam Winnall arriving and Gary Hooper approaching a return to full fitness, Wednesday now have an impressive array of strikers
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