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Match Preview: Leeds United v Ipswich Town - Whites seek third successive home victory
Saturday, 23rd Sep 2017 09:37 by @LucasMonk_
Following their eventual defeat of Burnley on penalties in a thoroughly frenetic Carabao Cup match at Turf Moor on Tuesday evening, Leeds United today return to divisional competition to play host to Ipswich Town, with the Whites ravenous for three more palatable points in their quest to reach the Premier League.
The outcome of Tuesday’s match was a most efficient remedy with which Leeds United supporters across Britain, and indeed the globe, were able to assuage the pain that had been foisted upon them by the ignominious defeat to Millwall. Nine alterations were made to the starting eleven who took to the barren field of play at The Den, with ample opportunities afforded to those whom had been deprived of regular football. The performances of Andy Lonergan, Mateusz Klich and Hadi Sacko were the subject of copious discussion; though not all United supporters were bereft of qualms of some form, there appeared to exist for them great support.
The effusive praise of which that trio of relative pariahs were recipients was wholly merited. Lonergan, who recently acceded to a return to Elland Road having previously played for Leeds in the 2011-12 season, provided apt corroboration of his fitness to compete with Felix Wiedwald for starting berths in goal, by making an array of - if not distinctly stellar - dependable and competent saves throughout the match. There was only silence from the detractors of Klich, whose refined display of an artistry that will come to prove lethal to opponents in the Championship confirmed to observers that, contrary to popular belief, former head coach Garry Monk is possessed of rather perceptive mind (Monk had attempted to inveigle him to move to Middlesbrough). It was the performance of Sacko, who is certainly fleet-footed but is all too often woefully profligate, that caused the greatest degree of astonishment to observers. The Frenchman surged into the path of and seized upon a delectable through-ball by Pablo Hernández before finishing beyond the goalkeeper to score Leeds’ first goal with an aplomb none had ever thought him to own.
In the aftermath of the defeat by Millwall, Leeds had their viability to mount a challenge of strength for promotion impugned. Tuesday’s match provided to the disparaging forces an answer that was most clear. When Sutton United, of the Vanarama National League, eliminated United from the FA Cup last season, the U’s saw off the mere challenge of an unsightly concoction of both untried youth players who had not even the faintest chance of securing for themselves a future at Leeds and sporadic first-team players of little value. In that instance, Goliath (Sutton) defeated David (Leeds). No such scenario will arise this season; Thomas Christiansen’s team is suitably equipped to compete not only in the Championship but also the FA Cup and the Carabao Cup, and this they have proven by recording impressive results in spite of injuries to salient first-team players.
United’s sprightly start means that they enter today’s contest with first position to defend; Christiansen’s charges could relinquish their rightful place at the Championship’s pinnacle should they fail to defeat Ipswich Town, who occupy fifth place in lieu of languishing in the relegation zone as many had envisaged them doing. The fixture will most certainly see a direct contrast of styles: a fledgling, fresh-faced foreign head coach with a predilection for a sumptuous style - played not in the sky but on the floor - against a quintessential English manager who is an inveterate merchant of long ball.
Who will carry the day? For many, it is difficult to say. The Tractor Boys play robustly and abrasively and will think nothing of a subtle shove in one’s back - and the same was said of Millwall. If Leeds allow the combative approach of Ipswich to perturb them, then there is every chance of Mick McCarthy’s team becoming the first to win on Elland Road’s hallowed turf this season.
Though United have been beset by injuries this season, the squad at Elland Road is now close to a full bill of health.
German forward Pierre-Michel Lasogga, who recently scored twice in his inaugural outing in English football against Burton Albion only weeks ago, is still awaiting the birth of his second child, but the 25-year-old is anticipated to be named in the matchday squad.
Defender Matthew Pennington, who has only made a solitary appearance for the club since joining United from Everton on a season-long loan, is hopeful of featuring against the Tractor Boys today, though it is most unlikely that he will be afforded a starting place.
Striker Caleb Ekuban, who was born in Italy in but is of Ghanaian heritage, is Leeds’ only absentee if the words of head coach Thomas Christiansen are to be believed.
It is predicted of Christiansen that he will deploy a starting eleven that shall bear a close semblance to that which was fielded against Millwall at The Den.
In stark contrast to their opponents, Ipswich Town are presently plagued by a plethora of injuries.
Midfielders Teddy Bishop, Andre Dozzell, Emyr Huws and Luke Hyam are all sidelined, as are defenders Tommy Smith and Adam Webster.
Manchester City loanee Bersant Celina, a former teammate of United’s Mateusz Klich at FC Twente last season, could replace Callum Connolly.
In their last eight home fixtures against Ipswich, United have tasted defeat only once. In September 2015, a solitary goal from Tommy Smith secured victory for the Tractor Boys at Elland Road.
Leeds’ defeat at the hands of Millwall last Saturday brought to an end an imperious streak of six consecutive league clean sheets - prior to Aiden O’Brien’s winning strike, United had not conceded a league goal since the opening day of the season.
Ipswich have won five of their opening seven league fixtures for the first time since the 2004-05 season, in which they finished third - though they subsequently be vanquished in the play-offs.
Venue: Elland Road (37,890 capacity).
Coverage: BBC Radio Leeds.
Referee: Geoff Eltringham.
Leeds United: Pierre-Michel Lasogga, Samu Sáiz and Kalvin Phillips.
Ipswich Town: Joe Garner, Grant Ward and Bartosz Białkowski.
Though Ipswich have made their most sprightly start to a season in a great many years, some have excoriated the Portman Road club of playing tedious football, bereft of invention, and anticipate their swift descent down the table and toward the relegation zone. Leeds will have to perform diligently to secure victory, but I cannot envisage the Tractor Boys posing a particularly potent threat to United’s enviable home record.
Photo: Action Images
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