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Match Preview: Leeds United v Cardiff City - A Rancorous Return for Neil Warnock?
Saturday, 11th Feb 2017 11:18 by @LucasMonk_
This afternoon’s visit of Cardiff City will see a number of former United men make a return to Elland Road, with ex-players Souleymane Bamba, Lee Peltier, and former Leeds manager Neil Warnock, now allied to the Welsh side, who currently languish in the bottom half of the table.
After a sickeningly cruel defeat at the death last week at the John Smith’s Stadium, Leeds United make a welcome return to home soil and Elland Road, a venue that has, this season, been converted into a formidable fortress in a manner that evokes memories of former triumphs.
Standing in the way of three precious points are Cardiff City, among whom are a small clique of former Leeds men, namely former manager Neil Warnock and defenders Lee Peltier and Sol Bamba, who have all experienced error-strewn spells with the Whites in recent years.
A convivial reception, befitting of the man’s persona, is expected to greet Bamba upon his emergence from the drafty tunnel this afternoon, but perhaps more rancorous roars will be bestowed upon Warnock and Peltier, whose relations with Leeds supporters have soured somewhat since their respective departures.
This reunion is by the by, as the most imperative objective for Leeds is not to ensure that their former comrades are honoured or resented in the correct manner, but rather to secure not only three invaluable points in the skirmish for the play-off places, but additionally, a return to winning in consummate style in front of their own ardent supporters. Indeed, the Whites are expected to, principally due to their imperious form for much of the current campaign, but also because this afternoon’s opponents are mired in mediocrity, with their top performers functioning in midfield or in defence.
United are the clear favourites, and with good reason, too. But it can never be deemed certain that the plague of complacency is incapable of infiltrating the minds of even the most proficient footballers, and Leeds must continue to demonstrate the almost infallible resolve that they have shown throughout the present season if they are to emerge victorious today.
Left-back Charlie Taylor remains afflicted with injury and so he will be absent, while doubt has been cast once more over the match fitness of attacker Kemar Roofe, who, like Taylor, missed the defeat to Huddersfield with injury.
Home debuts could be conferred upon fleet-footed loan signings Alfonso Pedraza and Modou Barrow, who both recently joined Leeds from Villarreal and Swansea City respectively on transfer deadline day.
Full-back pairing Lee Peltier and Joe Bennett are doubts, as are two of the Bluebirds’ top marksmen; Anthony Pilkington and Rickie Lambert. Fan favourite and cultured defender Bruno Ecuele Manga is unlikely to feature again before the end of the present season.
Leeds United (4-2-3-1) - Green; Ayling, Bartley, Jansson, Berardi; Vieira, Bridcutt; Barrow, Hernandez, Pedraza; Wood.
Cardiff City (4-5-1) - McGregor; Peltier, Morrison, Bamba, Richards; Harris, Whittingham, Gunnarsson, Ralls, Hoilett; Zohore.
Leeds United (5th)
Top Goalscorers: Chris Wood (21), Souleymane Doukara (5), Kyle Bartley (4).
Most Assists: Pablo Hernandez (6), Kemar Roofe (5), Hadi Sacko (3).
Highest Statistical Average Rating: Pontus Jansson (7.63).
Record in 2016-17 (League) - W: 17, D: 3, L: 10.
Goals For: 42
Goals Against: 30
Goal Difference: 12
Last 5 Matches: WLWWL
Cardiff City (17th)
Top Goalscorers: Anthony Pilkington (7), Peter Whittingham (6), Rickie Lambert (4).
Most Assists: Peter Whittingham (6), Sean Morrison (4), Aron Gunnarsson (2).
Highest Statistical Average Rating: Sean Morrison (7.38).
Record in 2016-17 (League) - W: 10, D: 6, L: 14.
Goals For: 34
Goals Against: 44
Goal Difference: -10
Last 5 Matches: WLLWL
Media: Garry Monk and Neil Warnock:
“We have to accept that we will suffer defeats in a league which is so competitive, but we are all focused on moving forward very quickly.
“So far when we have suffered a negative result, we have managed to bounce back very quickly, I think it is seven out of nine where we have bounced back with a win and we need to try and make sure it is eight out of ten.
“I’m sure you will see a determined performance again on Saturday, where we try and fight for these three points.
“It is always crucial to have your home form as strong as possible, whilst picking up points on the road.”
“You just look at each game. Every game has something about it. We’ve got Derby next Tuesday too, and I just prepare the players as best I can for the game we’ve got that week. This will be no different. It is a great stadium to play your football in though, so we’ll be well up for it.
“The fans have been fantastic. That’s why in the next couple of months I’m going out into the Valleys to the supporters’ clubs on three or four occasions.
“I enjoy the passion of the fans. They’re the bread and butter of your club really – the diehards. The weather and the travel don’t put them off. They’re there every week and it’s almost a religion for them.”
Only Rotherham (none) have kept fewer away clean sheets than Cardiff in the division this season (one).
After a run of 16 consecutive league games without a win against Cardiff, Leeds have won their last three matches against the Welsh side without conceding a goal to them.
Chris Wood could become the first Leeds player to score in six successive Championship appearances at Elland Road since Ross McCormack in the 2013/14 season.
Leeds United: Chris Wood, Forward: (7.03 Average Statistical Match Rating)
Hailing from New Zealand, the 25 year-old has been a talismanic figure for Leeds United this season, namely because of his unrelenting efficiency in front of goal. Wood has no less than 21 goals to his credit this term, and the striker is enjoying the most fruitful goal-scoring season of his career.
Possessed of bullish strength reminiscent of an ox, perhaps his most tangible asset, Wood is able to hold up play and bring his teammates into the game with sometimes consummate ease.
The forward is imperative to the imperious manner in which head coach Garry Monk has managed to get his side playing their football in this season, and was a scorer in his side’s recent defeat to Huddersfield - and there is every chance that he’ll score goal number 21 tomorrow.
Cardiff City: Sean Morrison, Defender (7.38 Average Statistical Match Rating)
The Plymouth-born defender, of 26 years of age, has likely been one of the most prolifically scoring defenders in Cardiff history, having netted 11 goals since joining the Bluebirds from Reading in August 2014. Standing at a towering 6 ft 4, Morrison’s excellent performances have been a major contributing factor to Cardiff’s rediscovery of adequate form under the tutelage of Neil Warnock, and the Cardiff captain’s aerial prowess will prove key if his side are to mitigate the potent threat posed by United’s Chris Wood this afternoon.
Writer’s Prediction: Leeds United 2-0 Cardiff City
Bluebirds boss Neil Warnock is a profoundly volatile and schismatic character, and one that continues to divide opinion among followers of Leeds United whenever the topic of his reign at Elland Road crops up in heated conversation.
I anticipate a belligerent reception toward what is a wily and seasoned campaigner in the Football League from the home support, though I shall not partake in such futile hostility, and a defeat for his side. Cardiff have discovered a moderate form of steely resilience (a characteristic that Warnock himself is possessed of), under his guidance but the Welsh side have a crippling dearth of technical aptitude. As was the case when Leeds defeated them 2-0 at the Cardiff City Stadium just a matter of months ago, the only threat they will carry will be that of Peter Whittingham’s finesse from set-pieces.
Should Leeds attempt to play football this afternoon, rather than partake in a nauseatingly erratic ding-dong battle as happened a week previously, they should be able to bask in a bout of glory upon their return to home soil come the final whistle.
Statistics derived from WhoScored.com
Photo: Action Images
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