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SkyBet Championship
Sunday, 5th August 2018 Kick-off 16:30
Match Preview: Nottingham Forest v Leeds United - High-flying Forest threaten undefeated streak
Saturday, 26th Aug 2017 13:26 by @LucasMonk_

Following their progression into the third round of the Carabao Cup after soundly defeating League Two outfit Newport County 5-1 at Elland Road on Wednesday, Leeds United today travel to the City Ground to do battle with Mark Warburton’s Nottingham Forest - who have, like United, enjoyed a sprightly start to the season.

Today’s televised fixture is one that will doubtless garner the eager attention of a great many people; for Nottingham Forest and Leeds United have both enjoyed auspicious beginnings to their respective 2017-18 campaigns following the departures of Fawaz Al-Hasawi and Massimo Cellino.

A summer of considerable, marked change at the City Ground has seen the club’s manager - Mark Warburton, formerly of Brentford - preside over several acute dealings in the transfer market. A particular emphasis appears to have been placed upon the recruitment of domestic, British talent - of the club’s eight summer signings thus far, five have been either English or Scottish. The prolific Scottish striker Jason Cummings, the on-loan Everton midfielder Kieran Dowell and the former Rangers winger Barrie McKay have all made impactful starts to their Forest careers.

Cummings, formerly of Hibernian, netted twice in an impressive 3-2 victory away to Newcastle United in the second round of the Carabao Cup on Wednesday evening; Dowell, an England U20 international, scored in a 4-3 triumph over Brentford. McKay, signed for a modest £500,000, has already rattled in two goals in four appearances. Perceptive recruitment and the adoption of a progressive approach with regard to the style of the club’s play have yielded three victories from the four league matches contested by the Reds this season, in addition to the aforementioned success over Premier League Newcastle - though the season remains youthful, the sequence of results posted by Forest has given their supporters just cause for optimism.

There is a firm belief that, at last, the quality of stability is present within the structure at the City Ground. The Olympiacos impresario Evangelos Marinakis, though a man of a chequered past following allegations of match-fixing in 2011, has promptly endeared himself to Forest supporters since acquiring the club in May through his support of the management in the transfer market and appears possessed of footballing acumen and a long-term vision, one that will see Warburton afforded ample time with which to craft a squad of his own.

Leeds United have made a similarly satisfactory start to their campaign under recently installed head coach Thomas Christiansen, who has not yet suffered a competitive defeat since his appointment in June. United have won two of their four league matches under the 44-year-old (3-2 and 2-0 against Bolton Wanderers and Sunderland respectively), while drawing the other two 0-0 (against Preston North End and Fulham). Furthermore, the Whites have emerged victorious from both of their Carabao Cup fixtures, defeating Port Vale (4-1) and Newport County (5-1). The importation of cost-effective talent from overseas has so far paid dividends, as the club has shifted to a continental approach toward its operation since Andrea Radrizzani’s takeover. Attacking midfielder Samu Sáiz and Macedonian winger Ezgjan Alioski have experienced little difficulty in attuning themselves to the rigours of English football and in spite of the sale of Chris Wood - who left for Burnley for a fee of £15,000,00 - the Whites appear well-placed to launch an assault on the division’s loftier echelons.

At the helm of APOEL Nicosia, Thomas Christiansen was inured to the burden of expectation - APOEL are the pre-eminent force in Cypriot football - and it is little surprise to those who diligently undertook prior research of the Dane’s background that he has made such a sound and sensible start at Leeds United.

Both teams enter this match having made equally commendable starts to their respective campaigns, and this fixture will be the most difficult of Christiansen’s tenure to date. If United win today, then one would be hard-pressed to argue against them maintaining their high standards in the near future.

Team News

Nottingham Forest

The remain a few injury problems within the Nottingham Forest squad at present.

Midfielders Chris Cohen and Matthew Cash are both currently sidelined through injury, as is attacker Jamie Ward, who spent much of last season on loan at Nigel Clough’s Burton Albion.

After seven months out, goalkeeper Stephen Henderson could be recalled to the bench.

Following last weekend’s defeat of Middlesbrough, Mark Warburton is unlikely to deviate from the 4-2-3-1 lineup that proved so devastatingly effective against the Boro; attackers Zach Clough and Ben Brereton will not start the match should this come to pass.

Finally, Tendayi Darikwa, Matt Mills, Daryl Murphy and Barrie McKay are among those hopeful of recalls having being excused from the trip to Newcastle in the Carabao Cup.

Leeds United

Thomas Christiansen will be mindful of a smattering of injury woes that plague United at this time.

Defenders Gaetano Berardi (shoulder) and Matthew Pennington (ankle) will miss out through injury, while doubt has been cast on the fitness of both midfielder Pablo Hernández and forward Caleb Ekuban.

Forwards Souleymane Doukara and Chris Wood have departed the club in recent days, meaning that it is highly probable that Kemar Roofe, who scored a superlative hat-trick in midweek against Newport County in the Carabao Cup, will spearhead United’s attacking vanguard.

Finally. new signing Jay-Roy Grot, a towering target man standing at 6 ft 4, is likely to be named among the substitutes following the 19-year-old Dutchman’s arrival from NEC Nijmegen in a £1,500,000 transfer.

Nottingham Forest League Statistics

League Position: 4th

Goals Scored: 8

Goals Conceded: 6

Points: 9

Recent League Form: WWLW

Top Scorer: Daryl Murphy (3).

Leeds United League Statistics

League Position: 5th

Goals Scored: 5

Goals Conceded: 2

Points: 8

Recent League Form: WDDW

Top Scorer: Kalvin Phillips (2).

Match Facts

Prior to January’s 2-0 home victory over Nottingham Forest, United had not beaten the Reds in eight matches.

Forest have won four of their last five league matches - as many as they had won in the 16 matches prior.

United’s last victory at the City Ground came in November 2011, with Jonny Howson, Robert Snodgrass, Luciano Becchio and Adam Clayton scoring in a 4-0 rout of Forest following the tragic death of Leeds legend Gary Speed - Speed had died the previous weekend.

Match Details

Venue: The City Ground, West Bridgford (30,445).

Kick-off: 17:30pm.

Coverage: Sky Sports Football, BBC Radio Nottingham, BBC Radio Leeds.

Referee: Jeremy Simpson (Lancashire).

Key Players

Nottingham Forest: Daryl Murphy

The 34-year-old Waterford-born striker, 6 ft 2, is an imposing target man of a rugged demeanour who is a seasoned Championship campaigner and a dependable source of goals. Having formerly played for Sunderland AFC and Newcastle United, the Irishman has scored three goals in four appearances and is beginning to replicate the form he produced for Ipswich Town in the 2014-15 season.

Leeds United: Kemar Roofe

A product of the West Bromwich Albion academy, Walsall-born Roofe equalled his goal tally for the entirety of last season with a resplendent hat-trick against Newport County in the Carabao Cup on Tuesday night. United head coach Thomas Christiansen is pragmatic, sound and sensible - and thus will not deem throwing Jay-Roy Grot into the deep end to be a wise course of action. It is likely, then, that Roofe will spearhead the Leeds attack and the former Oxford talisman will doubtless be eager to impress once more in what he has described as his favoured role.

Writer’s Verdict

Such is the volatility of the Championship’s nature, few would have envisaged both United and Nottingham Forest enjoying stable beginnings to their respective campaigns. Forest endured a torrid campaign last season, only eluding relegation on goal difference. Leeds were forced to part with company with Garry Monk, who almost succeeded in achieving a complete transmogrification of a mediocre, mid-table outfit into a worthy play-off participant in just one season.

Mark Warburton has, with the support of the new Forest owner Evangelos Marinakis, provided the squad at the City Ground with a radical injection of new talent - and the results speak for themselves. Likewise, Leeds have favoured cost-effective recruitment and are also reaping the benefits, making this match the most intriguing between the two clubs for a great many years.

This will be an arduous test of United’s capabilities, and one that they could well fail to pass. Without question, they pose the most potent threat to our undefeated sequence of results under Christiansen to date. It is a most difficult game to predict, but I will plump for a draw; I feel there is little to separate the two teams and that both clubs shall remain in play-off contention throughout the season due to the pragmatic, painstaking manner in which they are now operated.

Prediction: Nottingham Forest 1-1 Leeds United

Forest boast an impressive front line, with the foremost threat being Daryl Murphy. If Leeds can neuter his influence, then they’ve every chance of emerging from this game with a point at the very least.

Much has been made of Liam Bridcutt's transfer from United to Forest. The former Brighton and Hove Albion midfielder is highly adept at regaining and recycling possession, but was anxious to secure first-team football following the emergence of Kalvin Phillips and Ronaldo Vieira at Elland Road. Bridcutt will doubtless be hopeful of producing a good showing against one of his former employers, but I refute this notion that he has a 'point to prove' - Thomas Christiansen was clear: the player was in his plans, but Bridcutt felt it necessary to depart and did so of his own volition.

The match will be evenly contested and a Leeds victory, I think, would be reflected upon at the end of the season as having been a result of crucial importance.

Photo: Action Images

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