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Sunday, 5th August 2018 Kick-off 16:30
Match Preview: Leeds United v Fulham - Whites eye victory after Preston draw
Tuesday, 15th Aug 2017 14:26 by @LucasMonk_
Following a disappointing, mundane draw at home to a workmanlike Preston North End, Leeds United play host to Fulham this evening seeking a victory over the Cottagers so as to affirm their credentials as contenders for a play-off berth.
Saturday’s match - a goalless draw - was a source of much vexation among Leeds United supporters. An expectant crowd exceeding 32,000 had clamoured to see their beloved side do battle with the Lilywhites, only for their Lancastrian adversaries to exasperate them with a dogged display of resilience and determination. For the opening hour, Leeds were overpowered and overrun in the middle of the park by the visiting midfield triumvirate of Ben Pearson, Alan Browne and Daniel Johnson. This hegemony was brought to an abrupt halt when Pearson (who had played superbly until this juncture) was sent off in the 60th minute having received a second yellow card; Preston immediately altered their approach and began to play considerably closer to their own goal - a decision on manager Alex Neil’s part that was to yield a hard-earned point in spite of North End’s numerical disadvantage.
There have since been calls from many prominent figures at Elland Road to ensure that United convert Saturday’s underwhelming point into a valuable one by securing victory this evening. Cameron Borthwick-Jackson, who has produced two dependable performances in a Leeds shirt since his arrival from Manchester United on a season-long loan, implored the club to see the point as a small step toward the play-offs: “We should have got three points but a point is valuable as the season goes on. A point can be crucial to picking up play-off (places) and a point is better than nothing.”
It would seem that there is a perceptible hunger from the United players to avenge the disappointment of Saturday by emerging victorious from tonight’s game. Fulham, though, will prove coherent and competent opposition. The Cottagers endured turmoil in plenitude throughout their first two seasons of second-tier football after relegation from the Premier League in 2014, dismissing Felix Magath (September 2014) and Kit Symons (November 2015) before appointing present manager Slaviša Jokanović in Symons’ place in December 2015. Jokanović succeeded in guiding Fulham to safety in the latter period of the 2015-16 season - the Greater London outfit finished 20th - and has since established the club as contenders for promotion; Fulham finished 6th last season and were only defeated in the play-off semi-finals by Reading courtesy of a Yann Kermorgant penalty.
The squad at Craven Cottage boasts an array of talents that include DR Congo international attacker Neeskens Kebano, Scotland midfielder Tom Cairney and Nigeria’s Sone Aluko. While it could be plausibly argued that the abilities of the Fulham playing staff dwarf those of Preston, Leeds may well find themselves contesting a more expansive match tonight than they did on Saturday - a factor that could, perchance, prove conducive to success as such circumstances would be more benign to United’s composed, patient style that places a particular emphasis on the retention of possession.
Everton loanee Matthew Pennington missed the recent encounters with Port Vale and Preston respectively after sustaining an ankle injury away to Bolton Wanderers on the open day; it is not yet known by the club as to just how long the defender will be sidelined. Furthermore, full-back Gaetano Berardi will be absent with a dislocated shoulder.
Goalkeeper Rob Green has recovered from a knee injury and is thus available for selection.
Lastly, Samuel Sáiz could displace Pablo Hernández in the attacking midfield role for Leeds - the performance of the latter on Saturday appeared to underwhelm large scores of United’s support.
Doubt has been cast upon the availability of Tom Cairney, who has scored against Leeds in his last three appearances against the Whites, after the Scotland international was injured in the warm-up prior to the recent match against Reading.
Defender Tomáš Kalas - on loan from Chelsea - is suspended after being shown a red card in the first minute of Saturday’s match at the Madejski Stadium.
Finally, goalkeeper Marcus Bettinelli remains plagued by a hamstring injury and is unlikely to feature.
Venue: The match is to be played at Elland Road (7:45pm).
Coverage: The match can be followed via BBC Radio Leeds, in addition to the Twitter feeds of both clubs.
Referee: The referee will be Darren Bond, from Lancashire, who last took charge of a United match in April of this year - he controversially disallowed a Leeds goal as the Whites were defeated 2-1 by Burton Albion at the Pirelli Stadium.
The last four league matches between the two teams have culminated in a 1-1 scoreline. In the entire history of the Football League, has there been a sequence of five successive 1-1 draws between two clubs on only four occasions.
Chris Wood scored in every league home fixture that was played on a Tuesday for Leeds last season (he netted five goals in five games) and among the goals rattled in by the New Zealand international was a last-gasp equaliser against Fulham in August 2016.
Leeds have recorded 11 clean sheets in their last 15 home league games.
Leeds United: Liam Cooper
The rugged, 25 year-old defender has now entered his fourth full season with Leeds following his transfer to Elland Road from Chesterfield for a fee reputed to have been £750,000. He has oft come under fire for below-par performances in previous years but has made a steadfast start to the season, producing stable, level-headed displays against Bolton Wanderers and Preston. His contribution in a Leeds shirt to date was recently rewarded with a new four-year contract. Tonight, Cooper will be tasked with negating the attacking threat posed by the potent attack of the visitors - including players such as Sone Aluko, Floyd Ayite and Neeskens Kebano.
Fulham: Sone Aluko
A dynamic attacker of 28 years, Sone Aluko can be deployed in both wide and central areas with equal efficiency. The erstwhile Rangers player scored eight league goals in 39 appearances for Fulham last season, in addition to contributing 12 assists. Possessed of finesse and skill - particularly in the field of dribbling - Aluko is likely to be a prominent figure once more as Fulham seek to build on their successes of last season.
This evening’s game is likely to be the antithesis of the goalless draw with Preston. We will be visited by a side who will enter the match with aspirations of winning it in a consummate style, in lieu of seeking to leech the game of its life to the greatest possible degree.
Fulham will be among the most able opponents we will face in the season’s entirety, but their superiority to teams such as Preston may well prove a decisive factor in determining the winner of tonight’s match. A fluent and expansive game will be far more conducive to a United victory than a contest in which the opposition have established a deep, inflexible defensive blockade in front of their own goal.
Both sides feature an array of excellent players capable of creating something of out zilch and so it will be an intriguing match for the beholders of it. A frenetic 2-2 draw is my prediction, though I wish for three points to set us firmly back on the path to the play-offs.
Prediction: Leeds United 2-2 Fulham
Photo: Action Images
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