How Alex Neil has used Sheffield Wednesday to help Sunderland progress and reach the League One play-offs

Alex Neil says his Sunderland side face a tough test against a Sheffield Wednesday who he used as a reference in his own preparation since taking charge on Wearside.
Sunderland boss Alex Neil.Sunderland boss Alex Neil.
Sunderland boss Alex Neil.

Neil has had to be creative in his selections since taking charge due to injuries and some imbalances in his squad, admitting recently that he had used a back three more times at Sunderland than he had done in his entire managerial career previous.

Sheffield Wednesday's 3-5-2 system, which generally features two very attacking players in the wing-back role, has strong similarities with what Neil has generally gone with over recent weeks.

"It'll be a tough game," Neil said.

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"They're an experienced team who I have watched a lot of this season.

"They're a team I've used quite a lot in our preparation because we've played a similar shape to them.

"What it does guarantee is that there is going to be a whole set of fans at both legs, so we know the importance of it."

Both games are likely to be played in ferocious atmospheres and near sell-out crowds.

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Neil was asked after the win over Morecambe whether he felt playing a side of similar stature might be helpful to his side, usually seen as a major scalp at the level.

“We’re deemed as the big boy, irrespective of who we’re playing, most weeks," he said.

"That’s something I’m becoming accustomed to, and the players are too. I said to them before the match on Saturday, it takes strong personalities to come and play for a club like this because the demands never stop.

"That’s why they’re special players. They got the job done."