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Leeds United   v   Stoke City
SkyBet Championship
Sunday, 5th August 2018 Kick-off 16:30
Match Preview: Leeds United v Port Vale - Whites Tasked with Vanquishing Valiants
Wednesday, 9th Aug 2017 14:27 by @LucasMonk_

Following Sunday afternoon’s enthralling encounter against Bolton Wanderers at the Macron Stadium, Leeds United play host to League Two outfit Port Vale - managed by erstwhile Whites midfielder, Michael Brown - in the first round of the Carabao Cup this evening.

Having secured a first victory on the opening day since the 2013-14 season (a 2-1 home win over Brighton and Hove Albion) in a match that was Thomas Christiansen’s first competitive outing in English football, the Leeds United side selected for this contest is widely anticipated to be markedly different to that fielded against Bolton Wanderers on Sunday. The likes of Caleb Ekuban, Samu Sáiz and Mateusz Klich could well have first United starts conferred upon them; another player who may be deployed is fledgling left-back Cameron Borthwick-Jackson, who recently joined the Whites on loan until the end of the season. Though Leeds’ defensive ranks were depleted after injuries to both Matthew Pennington and Gaetano Berardi, Christiansen still has a sizable pool of players from which he can select a suitable matchday squad - there exists a possibility that Paudie O'Connor, a youthful Irish defender signed from Limerick in March, could make a first professional appearance since moving to England.

Meanwhile, United’s opponents, who were relegated from the third-tier upon the conclusion of a wholly calamitous 2016-17 campaign, travel to West Yorkshire in buoyed spirits after recording a 3-1 success over Crawley Town away from home. A most productive transfer window to date has seen the Valiants acquire the services of seasoned target man Tom Pope, former Barnsley and Huddersfield stalwart Antony Kay and experienced midfielder Michael Tonge who, like manager Michael Brown, has sported the colours of United in the past. It would be axiomatic for one to state that in spite of their recent relegation, Vale’s fortunes are steadily improving and the club appear well-placed to mount an assault on the fourth division’s uppermost reaches. In contrast to Leeds, it is expected that the League Two outfit will tonight field a largely unchanged lineup to that which inflicted defeat upon Harry Kewell’s Crawley.

While the hosts are almost unanimously perceived by most beholders to be the favourites for this match, the first round of this year’s League Cup (which, for sponsorship reasons, will be ludicrously described as the Carabao Cup for the next three years) has already seen Accrington Stanley spring a surprise by defeating Preston North End 3-2. Vale are quietly confident of emulating their divisional rivals and they must not be underestimated if Leeds are to secure the comfortable victory that head coach Christiansen will wish to achieve.

Team News

Leeds United

A cult hero to the supporters at Elland Road, Swedish defensive sentinel Pontus Jansson will be eligible for Saturday’s meeting with Preston North End; the central defender serves the last of a two-match ban tonight.

Meanwhile, fellow defenders Matthew Pennington (ankle) and Gaetano Berardi (shoulder) are sidelined with injury.

Finally, there could be starts for precocious midfielder Ronaldo Vieira, Ghanaian forward Caleb Ekuban and Northern Ireland winger Stuart Dallas.

Port Vale

The Valiants may be without the services of winger Cristian Montaño; the Colombian was substituted during Vale’s meeting with Crawley due to a suspected injury.

Striker Tyrone Barnett and defender Kjell Knops remain sidelined with injury and so will not be available for selection. Left-back Tyler Denton - who incidentally is on loan from Leeds - will not be eligible to face his parent club.

Former United midfielder, Michael Tonge, is likely to start the match having scored on his debut against Crawley at the weekend while Leeds-born forward Rekeil Pyke, on loan from Huddersfield Town, may partner Tom Pope in attack.

Match Facts

Tonight’s match is the first meeting between the two sides since 2008 - United and Vale played out a frenetic 3-3 draw with Luke Rodgers netting an injury-time equaliser for the Valiants.

Throughout history there have been 23 matches between the two teams: of which Leeds have won 15, drawn five and lost three.

In last season’s League Cup, Leeds enjoyed a mettlesome run into the quarter-finals. The Whites were eventually defeated at Anfield by Liverpool in a 2-0 loss.

Match Details

The match is to be played at Elland Road and has been scheduled to begin at 7:45pm.

It can be followed in various ways; one can either monitor Leeds United’s official twitter feed or listen to live commentary on BBC Radio Leeds from 6pm onward.

The referee will be Merseyside-born Peter Bankes, who officiated during United’s 3-0 defeat of Preston in April earlier this year.

Key Players

Leeds United: Caleb Ekuban

The Italian-born Ghanaian forward, 23, joined United determined to prove his worth to the club after he was deemed surplus to requirements by former employers Chievo Verona - he did not make a single appearance in seven years at Stadio Marc'Antonio Bentegodi. Though the player perceives himself to be a capable second-striker, he spent last season on loan at Albania’s Partizani Tirana and was often deployed as a natural out-and-out forward. He has been noted for his speed and is valued at £675,000 by Transfermarkt. Ekuban is likely to be presented with an opportunity in tonight’s match and if he is to have any chance of establishing himself as a first-team regular at Elland Road - a feat he failed to achieve in his native Italy - he must use it wisely and make an impactful contribution as Leeds seek to progress into the second round.

Port Vale: Michael Tonge

An experienced and workmanlike midfielder who began his career within the youth ranks of Manchester United, Michael Tonge has, to date, enjoyed a lengthy career in professional football. Now 34, the Manchester-born player has made over 450 league appearances and lists Leeds and Stoke City among his former employers. His wealth of experience will prove invaluable in Port Vale’s quest for promotion this season and will be hopeful of instigating the downfall of one of his previous clubs should he start tonight.

Writer’s Verdict

After the euphoria and ecstasy of the Bolton fillip, I and (hopefully) many other Leeds United supporters will be in attendance at Elland Road this evening in eager anticipation of our first home match of the new season.

A match against lowly Port Vale it may be, but this League Cup first round tie presents an ample opportunity for squad rotation and for supporters to observe some of the club’s recent acquisitions in the transfer market.

The challenge posed by a direct, diligent team from the lower echelons of English football will prove an enriching one for many of the players who will most certainly make their debuts for United this evening. A first taste of the bruises and bumps that go hand-in-hand with the English game will doubtless stand the likes of Caleb Ekuban in good stead for the rest of the season at large.

I expect of us a competent showing and a steady victory. Anything less must be deemed a failure; rotation cannot justify a defeat to a side who were, quite categorically, relegated from the third-tier last season. This is not a facile game - but it is one from which Leeds should—the operative word—emerge as winners.

Prediction: Leeds United 2-0 Port Vale

Photo: Action Images

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