At the risk of inflating the egos of Sheffield Wednesday supporters even more than they already are, Hillsborough is probably my favourite ground.
Not only is it a stadium full of tradition and character, without being outdated, but some of my most enjoyable moments as a Charlton fan in recent years have occurred at the famous old ground.
With Johnnie Jackson’s sublime free-kick, Chris Powell’s crossbar swinging celebrations, and Marvin Sordell impersonating a professional footballer all occurring in the blue and white half of Sheffield, it’s easy to see why many Addicks have fond memories.
In fact, such is the brilliance of those moments, having to watch Dan Seaborne and Salim Kerkar occupy the left hand side in 2012 can be laughed off as an anomaly, despite the pain suffered at the time.
It means this fixture has probably come at exactly the right time, for both sides. With their seasons petering out into a tired slog, a game that normally produces excitement and high intensity is needed.
LAST MEETING – CHARLTON ATHLETIC 1-1 SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY
Igor Vetokele’s equaliser rescued a point for the Addicks in an open contest at The Valley in November.
The hosts fell behind after Roysten Drenthe was allowed to glide past several men in red and drill a stunning effort beyond Stephen Henderson.
But Charlton were much improved after the break, and came closer to levelling the scores when Jordan Cousins forced a reaction stop out of Kieron Westwood.
And their pressure finally told when a fantastic move, beginning with Johnnie Jackson sending Rhoys Wiggins free down the left, concluded with the Welsh full-back driving into the box and teeing up Vetokele to score from close range.
Sheffield Wednesday: LDWLDW
The story of Wednesday’s season appears to revolve around a chronic lack of consistency and an inability to score goals.
Solid performances in victory have been mixed in with disappointing displays in defeat for the division’s lowest scorers (37) outside of the bottom three.
And while a mid-table finish is arguably a relative success for Stuart Gray’s side, the characteristics that have prevented them from pushing on further are hardly ideal in a situation where it is easy to pack it in and lazily grind out the remaining games of the campaign.
Motivation required to get over conceding a last minute equaliser at home to Huddersfield, and a flat defeat to Norwich.
If Tuesday’s performance in the draw with Fulham is anything to go by, the beach like conditions of Hillsborough’s pitch will be ideal for the Addicks.
For Charlton appear to have lost the rhythm gained from their impressive winning run before the international break, and no longer have the energy, drive or motivation to perform to the standard they have shown they are capable of.
It would be a huge disappointment if this season was to end with disappointing displays, not only for supporters but for players, for who such a run would do justice to.
Much like Wednesday, motivation is required to gain as many point as possible in the season’s final weeks.
Wednesday could welcome back Jose Semedo, with the former Charlton favourite close to recovering from a foot injury.
Jeremy Helan, who scored against the Addicks in 2012, and Will Keane are also set for a return to the squad following injuries of their own.
But Claude Dielna, having picked up a hamstring injury in Monday’s defeat to Norwich, will be unavailable on Saturday and is likely to be out for the season.
Following the completion of their suspensions, Charlton will welcome back Chris Solly and Yoni Buyens for the trip to Sheffield.
Solly is likely to come back into the side in place of either Tal Ben Haim or Roger Johnson, with Joe Gomez moving into the centre, but Buyens is unlikely to regain his place in the side given the impact of Alou Diarra in the past week.
Elsewhere, Johnnie Jackson continues to edge closer to fitness, but Saturday’s trip may come a little too soon for Charlton’s skipper.
KEY BATTLE – STOPPING THE OPPOSITION FROM PLAYING
Under Luzon, Charlton’s interest in retaining possession has been minimal. More often than not they’ve had below 40% of the ball, instead focusing on penning the opposition back with swift counter attacking moves.
But in the recent games against Millwall and Fulham, the Addicks have had neither possession nor that counter attacking brilliance. They’ve been nervous on the ball, lost spark going forward and allowed the opposition to have possession unchallenged high up the pitch.
It’s made for two very flat performances, disappointing in any circumstances, but more so knowing what this side is capable of. Jordan Cousins a little off the pace, the wide men not at their brilliant best, and Tony Watt, while still causing problems, not unplayable.
And while Wednesday, with Atdhe Nuhiu the focal point, play a direct game, and have their own trouble in front of goal, giving them space to play as Millwall and Fulham were is an extremely dangerous tactic.
A return of some energetic pressing and brutal breaks forward from Luzon’s men would be most welcome.
A thoroughly undeserved victory that enrages posters on OwlsTalk would be ideal, but a classic end of season game, without the intensity this fixture usually has, is more likely. Sheffield Wednesday 1-1 Charlton Athletic