We’re finally at the stage where we can call games ‘must win’. The sort of games teams who do ‘go up’ tend to win, games against teams also trying to ‘go up’.
Picking the Leeds side for this match takes a fair bit of guesswork, given Marcelo Bielsa in his pre-match press conference said just about half the team were 50/50s. So we don’t know if Adam Forshaw, Mateusz Klich and Pablo Hernandez will feature or not. The rest of the side, we expect, will remain largely unchanged. True to form.
Boro face similar pressures, having suffered a ‘Cupset’ to Newport County in the midweek and many Boro fans calling for the team to find some consistency, venting their anger at Tony Pulis’ functional, yet dull, brand of football. Play-off contenders etched out an impressive win away at West Brom last Saturday, thanks to two late goals from Britt Assombalonga. Leeds fans should be bouyed by the fact their two strikers including Britt Assombalonga and the other being Jordan Hugill are also both ‘doubts’ heading into this game.
The reverse fixture at Elland Road, whilst a 0-0, was one where we learnt a lot about both sides. Leeds though kicking were denied by a very well organised Boro defence and probably had the greater share of play. Much of Boro’s defending came down to beating Leeds for height with their two giants at centre-back, two counter this we may see the inclusion of Patrick Bamford in the no.9 role.
Times have changed since the end of August, however, and Leeds have been accused of becoming ‘flat’ in recent games and have struggled to really be at their best and take a firm grip of the game, in a way they did at home to Derby for example. For this, early domination is key and taking advantage of the opponent’s more reserved style may give an advantage here. Wide players must prove their worth on this stage and vary the way in which they attack the defence.
Saturday early kick-offs are a genuinely horrid time to play football. They always have an air that no one is really into it and are still coming round after the previous night’s sleep so tend to become quite flat affairs.
That said however, Bielsa and Pulis are two of the league’s great masterminds. Though opposing in style, we can be assured that both will be looking to spring a surprise and assert the supremacy of their respective brands come the time a ball is kicked at the Riverside.