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Saturday, 22nd April 2017 Kick-off 15:00
Match Preview: Burton Albion v Leeds United - Whites Bid to Keep Play-Off Dream Alive
Friday, 21st Apr 2017 13:16 by @LucasMonk_
After suffering acute ignominy in the wake of an egregious home defeat to 16th-placed Wolverhampton Wanderers on Easter Monday, Leeds United shall travel to the Pirelli Stadium tomorrow afternoon in pursuit of a 12th win away from home this season in all competitions, as the Whites bid to regain a play-off berth with victory over relegation-threatened Burton Albion.
In the mutable and mercurial division that is the Championship, seemingly zilch can be foreseen with infallible accuracy. Be it managerial departures, the results produced by particular matches, or the positions of each and every club within the league table come the season’s conclusion, surprises shall be sprung at almost every turn whenever the Championship is in fine fettle.
One of the many sources of perturbation of the present season has been the altogether noteworthy emergence of Burton Albion, an industrious and workmanlike outfit whose players enjoy an ostensibly imperishable bond. Only a scant few observers will surely have declared the Brewers, who have sent many a reverberation rippling through the division with their endeavours this campaign, to be capable of attaining the standards that they have soared to in season 2016-17.
Having been greeted with contemptuous sneers of disapproval upon their recent promotion from League One, the vulgarians from Staffordshire have confounded their critics ever since, by downing several opponents whom are considered far more illustrious than themselves. Among those to have fallen at Albion’s hands are Birmingham City, Sheffield Wednesday, Nottingham Forest, and Norwich City.
And it is for that reason alone that should Leeds United elect to underestimate their opponents tomorrow afternoon, they will do so at their peril. Defeat for Garry Monk’s charges shall attract odium as a carefully laid ‘jam trap’ does wasps - it is after all, a luxury that a Leeds United team pursuing the play-offs cannot afford. Most especially after the convulsive debacle of Easter Monday.
There is all to play for, much to gain, and much to lose. Though a general election has this week been called by our incumbent Prime Minister, one considers that tomorrow’s event shall be one of far more intrigue with the respective sets of players contesting the match in the knowledge that should they emerge victorious, they may potentially go on to etch their names into either Burton Albion or Leeds United folklore.
Who shall triumph and carry the day? Will the upstarts from a town more famed for the production of alcoholic drinks than any form of sporting prowess take a hefty stride toward safety? Or will Leeds United, sparkling in their treasured traditional colours, rekindle once more in the minds of their supporters the dream of a return to the promised land?
The absence of central midfielder Luke Murphy will necessitate at least one alteration to Nigel Clough’s starting lineup, as the Leeds loanee is ineligible to face his parent club, as is stipulated in his loan contract.
Former Derby County manager Clough may also be deprived of the services of goalkeeper Jon McLaughlin and forward Marvin Sordell. McLaughlin was forced to leave the field of play during Monday’s defeat of Birmingham City after sustaining a shoulder injury, while Sordell may well be sidelined due to a hip affliction.
Finally, central defender Ben Turner shall be available for selection, as Burton have opted to appeal a five-match moratorium handed to him for allegedly using racist language toward Brentford’s Nico Yennaris.
Head coach Garry Monk will doubtless take much delight in knowing of the return of Ronaldo Vieira to full fitness - the midfield prodigy has recently recovered from a small bout of illness.
Meanwhile, auxiliary goalkeeper Marco Silvestri is sidelined having undergone knee surgery, paving the way for Bailey Peacock-Farrell to act as an understudy to Robert Green.
Central defender Liam Cooper will be unavailable for selection, as he serves the penultimate match of his suspension on the grounds of violent conduct.
Burton Albion (4-4-1-1) - Bywater; Brayford, McFadzean, Turner, Flanagan; Sordell, Christensen, Irvine, Dyer; Akins; Varney.
Leeds United (4-2-3-1) - Green; Ayling, Bartley, Jansson, Berardi; Bridcutt, Phillips; Roofe, Hernandez, Pedraza; Wood.
Burton Albion (19th in EFL Championship with 48 points from 43 matches)
Top Goalscorers: Jackson Irvine (10), Lloyd Dyer (7), Lucas Akins (5).
Most Assists: John Brayford (4), John Mousinho (3), Lasse Vigen Christensen (3).
Highest Statistical Average Rating: Kyle McFadzean (7.25).
Record in 2016-17 (League) -W; 12, D; 12, L; 19.
Goals For: 44
Goals Against: 57
Goal Difference: - 13
Last 5 Matches: WLDLW
Leeds United (7th in EFL Championship with 73 points from 43 matches)
Top Goalscorers: Chris Wood (28), Souleymane Doukara (6), Pablo Hernandez (5).
Most Assists: Pablo Hernandez (8), Kemar Roofe (7), Chris Wood (3).
Highest Statistical Average Rating: Pontus Jansson (7.6).
Record in 2016-17 (League) - W; 22, D; 7, L; 14.
Goals For: 56
Goals Against: 41
Goal Difference: + 15
Last 5 Matches: LLWDL
Media: Burton Albion manager Nigel Clough and Leeds United head coach Garry Monk:
Burton Albion manager Nigel Clough has overtly stated that he believes tomorrow’s match to be an indicator of the quite remarkable progress made by the Brewers in recent years.
Speaking to www.burtonalbionfc.co.uk, Clough, who is currently enjoying his second managerial spell with the Staffordshire club, said: “It’s another one of them ties which shows how far the club has come through the years, it wasn’t that long ago that they were playing in the Champions League.
“We were in the non-league at the time. I am sure it will be a full house like Villa and we look forward to welcoming them here and having a go at them like we do in all home games.
“We will give everything we’ve got and it would be a great time to produce our first back-to-back victories this season. It should be a good game with us fighting to stay in the league and them dreaming of being in the Premier League.”
Meanwhile his counterpart Garry Monk has professed that he “doesn’t envisage” a play-off berth eluding his side come the season’s end when conversing with the Yorkshire Evening Post.
When quizzed about the prospects of his side by the newspaper, Monk remarked: “I don’t envisage missing out.”
“I’ve got full confidence in my players and in what we have been doing here and all the hard work that everyone has done to put us in this position.
“All the hard work and those hours that we have spent on the training ground and with each other is done so that will pay off.
“That’s what we trust, that’s what we believe in and that’s what we will go forward with. You will see that in these three games starting on Saturday.”
The sides have met on a mere two previous occasions; the first of which being a pre-season friendly prior to the 2012-13 season, where a goal from Luke Varney (presently now of Burton), handed Leeds a 1-0 triumph at the Pirelli Stadium. The other clash between the two came in October 2016, with goals from Chris Wood and Souleymane Doukara ensuring that, as of the time of writing, Leeds possess a 100% win ratio in contests against the Brewers.
Burton have failed to win any of their last three home league fixtures; losing to both Brentford (5-3) and Ipswich Town (2-1), in addition to a 1-1 draw with Aston Villa.
Leeds have the ninth-best away record in the Championship this season, winning eight of the 21 fixtures that they have contested on their travels in 2016-17, amassing 28 points in the process. Incidentally Burton have the 19th-best home record in the division, while also accruing 28 points from their 21 battles on the turf of the Pirelli Stadium. One anticipates a highly competitive match tomorrow.
Burton Albion: Jackson Irvine, Midfielder (7.12 Average Statistical Match Rating)
An all-action midfielder of 24 years, Australia international Irvine has made a tangible contribution toward the Burton Albion cause this season, with his tally of 10 league goals making him the Staffordshire side’s top-scorer. Having proven himself to be aerially adept while also tirelessly aiding his team defensively, the former Celtic fledgling will doubtless have attracted the attention of innumerable potential suitors, who may well attempt to prise him away from the Pirelli Stadium in the summer.
Fact: Irvine’s 10 goals for Albion this term surpass the total he mustered during two seasons as a first-team regular with Ross County between 2014 and 2016 (4).
Leeds United: Pablo Hernandez, Midfielder (7.13 Average Statistical Match Rating)
Now aged 32, Hernandez is a cultured conjurer of flair, finesse, and on occasion infallible technique. Though he has been the subject of some opprobrium in recent weeks an apparent lack of influence in away matches, there exists axiomatic evidence that infers that he has prolifically created chances this season, with the former Valencia player having averaged 2.7 key passes per game since his summer move from Qatari moneybags Al-Arabi.
Leeds failed haplessly in their endeavours to unlock a sturdy and durable Wolverhampton Wanderers defence last time out; but if anyone is to craft something from nothing tomorrow, it shall be the Spaniard.
Fact: Having registered a total of five strikes this season, Hernandez’s proficiency in front of goal has reached a new zenith, this his most prolific season in goalscoring terms since 2011-12.
Writer’s Prediction: Burton Albion 1-2 Leeds United
In this match, victory is a necessity. I shall not cast aspersions upon Burton Albion with regard to their apparent scarcity of supporters, or dearth of a prodigious and majestic arena in which to play their home fixtures - they are not to be underestimated, but they are a team that a side of our standing are widely expected to defeat, and with good reason and not an ounce of malice.
Though the hosts have failed to win a home match in their last three attempts, our away form of late is cause for concern, with Leeds having not savoured the palatable flavour of a victory away from home since the 3rd of March. It must therefore be considered that this will be a closely-fought affair between two sides who have much to play for.
A win for Burton all but secures survival, and their evasion of relegation. With that of course, would come a historic second season of Championship football, For ourselves, a triumph tomorrow would aid our bid for a play-off berth, as we pursue promotion via the most onerous route.
I envisage a fiercely competitive match, one contested in a seemly spirit, and a marginal Leeds victory. I take the view that Burton are a workmanlike outfit worthy of deference, but are not possessed of the requisite firepower to gun down our lofty ambitions with a deluge of goals. The composure and finesse of Hernandez, the industrious energy of Vieira (or Phillips), and the formidable attacking threat posed by Chris Wood, should see us garner three invaluable points.
Statistics derived from WhoScored.com
Photo: Action Images
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