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Sunday, 5th August 2018 Kick-off 16:30
Match Preview: Bristol City v Leeds United - Can Whites beat Robins to end a sorrow rut?
Friday, 20th Oct 2017 23:59 by @LucasMonk_
After succumbing to a profoundly dispiriting home defeat at the hands of a beleaguered Reading last Saturday, Leeds United must undertake the unenviable and arduous task of securing victory at Ashton Gate tomorrow afternoon against an ostensibly impregnable Bristol City side who have not been beaten since August 12.
Presently, Leeds United find themselves within a most perplexing predicament. Three successive Championship defeats have served to sap from many supporters considerable optimism that had been instilled into their minds by United’s sprightly start to the season. As their side have displayed an exceedingly supine character in each of their last three matches, confidence in the abilities of the players and the tactical methodology of head coach Thomas Christiansen is being incrementally eroded; in spite of this, the club remains in its most vigorous state for a great many years and Christiansen’s coalition of workmanlike, home-grown Englishmen and dexterous foreigners occupy a satisfactory sixth position in the Championship table. It is for this reason that the state of affairs at Elland Road is as discombobulating as it is at this moment.
Meanwhile, opponents Bristol City, under the astute tutelage of a youthful coach in Lee Johnson, are in fine fettle ahead of this match and a lengthy sequence of commendable results has seen the Robins elevated to fourth position in the table. There was copious speculation that Johnson, whose father Gary is the manager of League Two outfit Cheltenham Town, would be relieved of his managerial responsibilities by City owner Stephen Lansdown throughout the latter half of the recent 2016-17 campaign, but the Guernsey billionaire, an avid advocate of sport in Bristol who also owns the city’s basketball team, is having the faith that he placed in Johnson repaid in the currency of impressive results that few would have anticipated before the season’s beginning. The club marginally evaded what would have been a calamitous relegation last season but, owing to a harmonious melange of well-schooled domestic footballers - such as Aden Flint, Joe Bryan and Jamie Paterson - and talent poached from overseas - Famara Diedhou, Eros Pisano and Jens Hegeler are shimmering examples - there can be no dispute concerning their worthiness to contest Championship football. Relegation is merely a remote possibility and if Johnson can continue to elicit from his players the quality that they have displayed thus far this season, then City may well be credible contenders for a play-off berth.
The match sees two direct competitors for coveted positions within the play-off places do battle on a ground that has been benign to United in the past, but not on the last two occasions the Whites have visited Ashton Gate. Since Bristol City’s promotion from League One as champions in 2015, Leeds have not secured victory over the former away from home. United’s visit in the 2015-16 season yielded a frenetic 2-2 draw - Leeds had led 2-0 - and last season’s excursion saw a solitary Marlon Pack strike prove decisive for the hosts. If Leeds are secure what would be a most welcome reclamation of winning form, they must produce a steadfast, diligent and determined performance to overcome what is a stern opponent.
A smattering of injuries persist within the Bristol City ranks at present.
Towering Bosnian forward Milan Djuric has returned to full first-team training but has not yet wholly recovered from his groin injury, while seasoned midfielder Gary O’Neil will be unavailable for four months following surgery being performed on a recurring hamstring ailment.
Furthermore, it is highly probable that Italian right-back Eros Pisano will be excused from the match and rested - in spite of the 30-year-old having returned from a knee injury.
Finally, Bobby Reid has scored prolifically this season for the Robins and is anticipated to partner Famara Diedhou in attack.
United are devoid of any injuries at the time of writing, and so head coach Thomas Christiansen has a whole squad from which to select his starting lineup and substitutes for tomorrow’s match.
Andy Lonergan is expected to retain his place in the starting eleven having made a number of creditable saves during the 1-0 home defeat to Reading last Saturday, while Ronaldo Vieira may well replace Kalvin Phillips to partner the indefatigable Eunan O’Kane in midfield.
Pierre-Michel Lasogga will likely spearhead the Leeds vanguard despite his barren run in front of goal, and Macedonian winger Ezgjan Alioski could well be recalled having been rested for the visit of Reading following his partaking in Macedonia’s recent international fixtures.
Venue: Ashton Gate, Bristol (capacity of 27,000).
Coverage: BBC Radio Leeds or the BBC’s live text coverage - which can be located on the BBC Sport website.
Referee: Oliver Langford, who hails from the West Midlands; the most recent Leeds match he officiated was United’s 5-0 defeat of Burton Albion on September 9.
Leeds have enjoyed an impressive hegemony over Bristol City in recent encounters between the two teams, with United having won eight of their last ten league matches against the Robins.
Bristol City have not been inured to defeat this season; the Robins last lost a Championship match ten matches ago: a 2-1 loss to Birmingham City at the St Andrew’s Stadium.
If Leeds were to suffer defeat tomorrow, the club will have lost four matches in succession for the first time since April 2015.
Bristol City: Bobby Reid, Jamie Paterson and Aden Flint
Firstly, Bobby Reid has scored prolifically following his conversion from a midfielder into a striker this season. The 24-year-old is enjoying the most bounteous goal-scoring season of his career, and his devastating speed and ruthless potency in front of goal have seen him score seven league goals thus far in the present campaign. Reid has emerged as a talismanic figure for Bristol City since the club’s return to the Championship, but his influence has reached its zenith under the management of Lee Johnson and the player’s propensity to score frequently has been a prominent contributory factor to his team’s success.
Secondly, Coventry-born Jamie Paterson has been a nigh irrepressible attacking force for the Robins since he was acquired by the club from divisional rivals Nottingham Forest for an undisclosed fee in the summer transfer window of 2016. Paterson had been an impactful player on loan at Huddersfield Town in the season prior, scoring six goals in 34 domestic appearances for the Terriers under both Chris Powell and David Wagner. In his 36 appearances for City in all competitions to date, Paterson has scored eight, and assisted nine, goals. The fleet-footed winger’s adroitness and dynamism when running with the ball have made him a thorn in the side of many Championship defences ever since he first began playing in the division for Nottingham Forest four years ago.
Thirdly and finally, it could be plausibly argued that Aden Flint has been one of the most salient Bristol City players in the last decade. Standing at a towering six-foot-five, the Derbyshire-born defender has surpassed 150 appearances for the club since departing Swindon Town for Ashton Gate in June 2013 and he scored 14 league goals in City’s famed 2014-15 season in which the club won both the League One title and the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy - Flint scored the opening goal in the final at Wembley Stadium. An aerially imperious defender with Football League experience in plenitude, Flint shall be integral to any success that Bristol City are to enjoy in the foreseeable future.
Leeds United: Luke Ayling, Samuel Sáiz and Ronaldo Vieira
Tireless 26-year-old defender Luke Ayling, who recently acceded to a new four-year contract at Elland Road, has firmly established himself as both a favourite of the Leeds United supporters and one of the club’s most dependable players. Capable of being deployed as a central defender, right-back or defensive midfielder with equal efficacy, Ayling is a cornerstone of the United rearguard and is crucial to the club’s future.
Samu Sáiz, a diminutive Spanish playmaker of 26 years, has already made clear the finesse of which he is possessed and has contributed significantly to the United cause with six goals and two assists in all competitions this season. As a player who can manufacture something out of nothing, often in a facile manner, the attacking midfielder’s perceptive vision and movement when out of possession is an invaluable asset to the Leeds attack.
At 19, Ronaldo Vieira has been the recipient of universal adulation from Leeds supporters ever since his emergence into the first-team under previous head coach Garry Monk last season. With bullish strength, seemingly imperishable reserves of energy and a voracious hunger for success, Vieira has been touted as a star of the future by both opposition managers and pundits alike.
United being vanquished by Reading last Saturday in such a pusillanimous manner was unpardonable and the final result was one that Leeds’ insipid and ponderous performance entirely merited. One hardly has to be of profundity to recognise that improvement is necessary and that in order to for victories to arise more often Thomas Christiansen must display an alacrity to adapt his tactical approach for the benefit of his players. The Dane’s absurd predilection for attacks being carefully manufactured from the back has become inimical to the team’s prospects of success, and a refusal to acknowledge the aggression and physical prowess of opponents such as Sheffield United - whom Leeds play host to next week - will inevitably culminate in more defeats.
Bristol City pose to us a threat of considerable severity. A densely populated Ashton Gate will instill in their players a desire to strike United down while their opponents are in such a position of vulnerability having lost three successive matches. They are a side with a formidable defence, a workmanlike midfield and a potent strikeforce and they deservedly occupy a play-off berth. The match will then perhaps be the sternest test of Leeds’ mettle so far this season.
Ahead of this match, this scribe is overwrought. I wish, with all my heart, for Christiansen to excel as United head coach. He is a figure of conspicuous equanimity and a young, modern coach who could lead Leeds for many seasons to come. It is advisable, in my view, that we supporters remain trustful of him and his coaching staff. At the present moment, however, United must climb a looming, footballing alp to reach the pinnacle of achievement once more, and there was appreciable criticism of him following the last blast of the referee’s whistle last Saturday. This shall be one of the most trying fixtures we will have to contest all season and I dearly hope that we emerge as victors - to do so would assuage the purveyors of pessimism and would represent a turning point in our season.
Prediction: Bristol City 1-2 Leeds United.
I maintain confidence in Thomas Christiansen and believe that if he were not a judicious manager, he would not have been appointed to a role of such prominence and opportunity. I trust that he is not as inflexible and pig-headed as to refrain from making the necessary changes and, if my trust is not misguided, we shall win.
Photo: Action Images
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