Preview: Huddersfield Town

Last week’s defeat at home to West Bromwich Albion went to demonstrate the drop in standards since an impressive first few months of the campaign for Coventry City. A few injuries and individual losses of form in individual players means that it is now just two wins in ten for the Sky Blues, who have now dropped out of what had looked to be a comfortable top six position.

While some may look to January as a time to resolve the issues this team is currently facing, there is no guarantee that the required reinforcements will arrive and five games is slightly too long a period to put a season on hold. This trip to a Huddersfield Town side on a similar trajectory to Coventry City is an opportunity to begin the turnaround, but it is going to require a fresh impetus of energy and ideas in a few ideas in order to foment.

Expected Line-Up

Possible Line-Up (3-4-2-1): Moore; Hyam, McFadzean, Rose; Kane, Kelly, Sheaf, Dabo; Allen, O'Hare; Godden.
Possible Line-Up

A starting line-up against West Bromwich Albion that featured Fankaty Dabo in the back three and an unfit Gustavo Hamer in midfield exposed both the squad shortages and the muddled thinking that Mark Robins has had to contend with recently. Just whether the manager will have learned from such selection errors remains to be seen, but getting the starting eleven right is the first step towards a renaissance in this Coventry City campaign.

It is highly unlikely that Fankaty Dabo will remain as part of the back three, given how clearly his lack of understanding of the position was exposed by West Brom last week. However, there is still the potential for shoehorning given that the decision was taken to play Dabo at left wing-back, over a natural player in that position in Ian Maatsen, rather than to take him out of the firing line. It is a decision that Mark Robins is clearly reluctant to make, there is little indication that Fankaty Dabo will drop out of the team for this game, whether at right wing-back, centre-back or left wing-back.

In midfield, it’s not clear just how serious the injury that has seen Gustavo Hamer substituted off in his last two starts is, but it’s hard to see him starting this game. With a return to a 3-4-2-1 system likely due to this being an away game, meaning that Jamie Allen will come into the team in favour of a striker, that, by default, leaves a midfield pairing of Liam Kelly and Ben Sheaf.

Just who leads the line in attack is something of a dilemma for the manager. The ideal man for the role is Viktor Gyokeres, who is clearly out of form, while the alternative is a striker in Matt Godden who is not suited to playing as a lone centre-forward. It’s a decision that could go either way, but Godden’s stronger form is likely to give him the edge for the start here.

Last Time We Met

With both teams having all but secured Championship status for another season, Coventry City’s last trip to Huddersfield Town was end of season dead rubber. Little occurred at either end of the pitch, until Jordan Shipley sent an effort that deflected past Ryan Schofield in the Huddersfield goal in the second-half to put the Sky Blues ahead.

There seemed little threat of the final score being affected from that point, only for some sloppy set-piece defending from messrs Jack Burroughs and Ben Wilson to allow Huddersfield Town’s Danny Ward to secure a share of the points for his side.

The Opposition

The Manager – Carlos Corberan

Around 18 months into his time at the club, the jury remains out on where Huddersfield Town are going under Carlos Corberan. A left-field appointment back in July of 2020, Huddersfield have occasionally played some intriguing and attractive football under the Spaniard but consistency has been an issue, with it feeling at times as if the squad is not geared to executing the manager’s desired style of play.

Having looked in trouble heading into the season, an impressive start to the campaign has alleviated the doubts surrounding both Carlos Corberan and what he embodies in Huddersfield Town’s post-top-flight era. Nonetheless, there is a dissonance between the brand of football that Corberan has promised and what has proved to be effective on the pitch. Huddersfield have been incredibly reliant on their set-piece threat – thanks in large part to the incredible deliveries of wide-man, Sorba Thomas – but have struggled to create chances in open play. While the results this season have been good enough for it not to matter, if Huddersfield’s form continues on the trajectory it is, it may not be long before questions are asked of Carlos Corberan’s effectiveness as manager.

Who To Look Out For?

Possible Line-Up (3-4-3): Nicholls; Pearson, Lees, Colwill; Thomas, High, O'Brien, Toffolo; Koroma, Sinani, Ward.
Possible Line-Up

The, aforementioned, Sorba Thomas is the key dangerman in this Huddersfield Town side. Recruited last January from non-league Boreham Wood, Thomas has burst on the scene this season as a high-calibre performer at Championship-level. Thomas’ delivery from set-pieces is clearly his strongest attribute, which has been a key reason why Huddersfield are currently in the top-half, but his crossing in open play, along with his skill down the right wing could be difficult to contain.

The other main reliable performer for Huddersfield Town is Lewis O’Brien in central midfield. An academy product who combines both quality on the ball with indefatigable energy levels, he could be key in allowing Huddersfield to get on top in this game. Other key attacking contributors are Harry Toffolo from left wing-back, the skilful Duane Holmes who operates between the line of midfield and attack, and the wide-forwards, Danel Sinani and Josh Koroma.

At the back, Chelsea loanee, Levi Colwill, has impressed on the left of Huddersfield Town’s back three with his quality in possession and natural defensive attributes. Playing alongside much more experienced performers at this level in Matty Pearson and Tom Lees, Colwill has had strong guidance, as well as competition for his place. In goal, Lee Nicholls can be an excellent shot-stopper when on top form, having been plucked from being second-choice in League One last season at Milton Keynes Dons.

Where The Game Will Be Won Or Lost

These are two similar, low-scoring, low-conceding teams that are in poor form, don’t be surprised if this proves to be a pretty turgid affair. The similarities between Coventry City and Huddersfield Town go deeper, with both teams having aspirations of controlling games through possession, which has the potential to make this an especially stodgy contest as either side battles for superiority in a congested centre of the park.

If it proves to be such a contest, Huddersfield Town’s threat from set-pieces via Sorba Thomas’ deliveries could well give them the edge. Avoiding fouling in dangerous areas is likely to be a key concern for the Sky Blues’ defence and midfield – an effort that will be made easier by the likely absence of Gustavo Hamer. However, Coventry City have tended to deal with set-pieces rather well this season, as well as having scored a few of their own, meaning that the battle for superiority from dead balls may not be all one way.

If Huddersfield can get on top in terms of possession, they will look to overload Coventry City out wide by pushing their attacking wing-backs into advanced positions in order to aid their wide forwards into getting into one-on-one situations against the Sky Blues back three. It was apparent last week just how prone that Coventry City defensive trio can be when left exposed against quick, intelligent forwards. In Duane Holmes, Danel Sinani and Josh Koroma, Huddersfield have the quality to exploit that weakness.

For Coventry City, the aim in this game will be to try and isolate Huddersfield Town’s slower centre-backs – most notably, Tom Lees and Matty Pearson – against nimble, skilful forwards such as Callum O’Hare and Viktor Gyokeres. Like last week’s game against West Bromwich Albion, there are likely to be opportunities to hit the opposition on the counter-attack, but the decision-making will have to be a lot better.

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