Sheffield Wednesday: Owls chief hails midfield dynamo

Kieran Lee
Kieran Lee

He is a clever, under-rated, box-to-box midfielder.

And Kieran Lee’s impressive recent form has not shocked Wednesday head coach Carlos Carvalhal.

“I’m not surprised; I saw Kieran [Lee] play a lot last season and told him on the first day of training that he was a player I liked a lot,” Carvalhal told The Star.

Lee has started the Owls’ last five matches in a row and is poised to make his ninth appearance of the campaign as Carvalhal’s men prepare to entertain Fulham.

Carvalhal said: “Kieran didn’t play in the first couple of matches but he knows I like the way he plays but he can improve. Kieran has been fantastic in the last two matches in how he has run, attacked and defended.”

They may be small in stature, but Lee and new signing Barry Bannan have big hearts and are two fine technicians.

Marco Matias

Marco Matias

“Kieran and Barry [Bannan] are the same,” said Carvalhal. “They have like an antenna in their heads. They understand exactly what the team need and are workers. They run a lot.

“In the last match, Kieran ran almost 13km which is amazing. They understood what the team need at all moments.

“Kieran and Barry are players that coaches like.

“In the past, I have been asked which player I like in Portugal and I say João Moutinho, who now plays at Monaco. He is a similar player because he plays with an antenna in the brain.

Marco Matias

Marco Matias

“These type of plays run, fight and can play. They play exciting football and create chances.”

One Owls player who has recently received criticism in some quarters is Marco Matias. The forward has bagged two goals since arriving from Nacional, including a spectacular individual strike in the televised draw at Leeds United last month.

But the 26-year-old has struggled for consistency, missing a couple of glorious opportunities versus Bolton after being recalled to the starting eleven.

Carvalhal has leapt to the defence of Matias, insisting the attacker must be given time to acclimatise to English football.

Ben Pringle

Ben Pringle

“The first chance Marco [Matias] had the other night he tried to score with his right foot when if he had gone with his left he would scored it easily,” said Carvalhal.

“With the second one, the goalkeeper waited and waited and after he took the decision the keeper acted very well.

“Marco can score goals.

“We have changed the way that we play. We play 4-4-2 now and Marco is adapting to the way we play. It is new to him.

“Before he played left wing last year and scored a lot of goals but didn’t have a lot of work to do on the defensive part of the team.

“Now he must do more team work and is working hard to adapt to the way we play. He did better in the last match.

“It will take him time to realise what he must do with and without the ball. He is working hard and it is the same with Modou Sougou.

“It is easier for some players in the team who have done it before. But they guys on the wings are in the process to get better. They have had some difficulties but we believe in time they will get better.”

With Sam Hutchinson set to serve a one-match suspension after picking up five bookings, Carvalhal will have to choose between Jose Semedo, Alex Lopez and Lewis McGugan in midfield.

He said: “We need players to balance the team in midfield. We can’t just play players who play in attack or defence. We must balance the team.

“We will not do big changes (versus Fulham) because we are happy with the dynamic. We are not planning to move the team too much. We believe we are near to doing good things.”

Nonetheless, Keiren Westwood is almost certain to start after recovering from a side strain problem which has ruled him out of the last two away fixtures.

Carvalhal said: “Keiren [Westwood] is very good and training absolutely normal. He is in good spirits. He looked back to his best.

“He feels fit, is very happy and can be an option for Saturday.”

Wednesday and Fulham’s form could not be more polar opposite. Carvalhal’s men have gone six matches without a Championship win while the Cottagers are chasing a fourth victory on the spin in all competitions.

“We put pressure on ourselves,” said Carvalhal. “I have a lot of experience in football.

“You can feel when your players are under negative pressure.

“We trained on Thursday and the atmosphere was very good. The players are happy and confident.

“We believe in what we are doing and so do the players.”

Tomorrow’s match has been dedicated to former Wednesday legend Ron Springett, who died aged 80 following a short illness last weekend.

“We will try to give a tribute to Ron [Springett],” said Carvalhal. “We will give our feelings to the family and will do our best to win the match and to give the three points to him.

“Ron gave a lot to Wednesday. He is not with us anymore but he is someone that will be forever part of the club.”

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