|Leeds United 1 v 2 Sheffield United|
Friday, 27th October 2017 Kick-off 19:45
Match Preview: Leeds United v Sheffield United: Can Whites put Blades to the sword?
Friday, 27th Oct 2017 16:20 by @LucasMonk_
Following their elimination from the Carabao Cup by Leicester City of Premier League on Tuesday evening, Leeds United tonight play host to Yorkshire rivals and fellow play-off aspirants Sheffield United in an eagerly anticipated fixture.
In spite of Tuesday evening’s 3-1 defeat by Leicester City at the King Power Stadium, it can be said with veracity that Leeds United supporters are rather more mirthful at present than they were prior to last Saturday’s match away to Bristol City.
To be vanquished by a team assembled to the tune of an obscene quantity of capital while having fielded a side principally comprised of sporadic first-team players is no disgrace. Supporters commended, and rightly so, the efforts of those whom were selected for a fixture that was hardly one of sanctity and before long tonight’s match became their sole focus.
Leeds’ nigh infallible performance against Bristol City yielded a wholly merited 3-0 victory that elevated the Whites to fourth position in the Championship table, meaning that Thomas Christiansen’s charges will move to within a solitary point of tonight’s opponents Sheffield United - and, for that matter, second-placed Cardiff City - in the event of defeating the Blades.
Sheffield United, meanwhile, have enjoyed a stellar campaign thus far in their own right under the wily tutelage of former player Chris Wilder, who replaced Nigel Adkins at Bramall Lane in May 2016. Wilder, having guided the club he supported as a boy to promotion after six barren years of League One football, has led the Blades to third position in the table, recording nine victories in 13 matches in the process.
An attack composed of seasoned forwards such as Leon Clarke (32), Billy Sharp (31) and Clayton Donaldson (33) has rattled in 11 of the South Yorkshire side’s 18 Championship goals this season, while a sturdy, durable defence has conceded a mere 11 goals in 13 matches - only Cardiff City have ceded fewer.
Wilder’s team have admirably remained true to the expansive, attacking style of football that saw them secure the League One title last season and this is a decision that may continue to pay dividends for the club as the players have not yet shown any sign of faltering.
Having been comprehensively defeated by Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough in Christiansen’s inaugural Yorkshire derby earlier in the month, Leeds will harbour aspirations of conquering another direct competitor for a play-off berth and securing a first derby success under Christiansen following their most marvellous win away to Bristol City.
Wilder and Sheffield United, having already made manifest their ability to achieve success in the Championship following promotion from League One last season, will doubtless be hopeful of a positive outcome as they have already been accustomed to success in a Yorkshire derbies under Wilder’s management - the Blades saw off the challenge of Bradford City in April, winning 3-0 at Bramall Lane, and the club secured a famous 4-2 victory over Sheffield Wednesday in September. There also exists further incentive for Wilder and his players to inflict defeat on Leeds: victory will temporarily lift them to the top of the table.
Bar the ankle injury sustained by Cameron Borthwick-Jackson on Tuesday night, Leeds are devoid of any injuries at present - though Gaetano Berardi will be unavailable for selection having been issued a red card in the recent match against Bristol City for a purported headbutt on City’s Matty Taylor. Vurnon Anita shall likely be deployed as a left-back in Berardi’s absence.
Head coach Thomas Christiansen is almost universally expected to retain the 4-3-3 formation that served the Whites so well against Bristol City last Saturday; Ronaldo Vieira, Kalvin Phillips and Eunan O’Kane are anticipated to constitute the Leeds central midfield contingent tonight.
Having acceded to a new five-year contract at Elland Road this week, Pontus Jansson may be in line to replace Everton loanee Matthew Pennington at the heart of the Leeds defence after featuring against Leicester City on Tuesday.
There are, in total, three injuries to Sheffield United players at the time of writing. Welsh forward Ched Evans, who re-signed for the club this summer following a season with Chesterfield, is sidelined with injury as are goalkeeper Simon Moore and defender Richard Stearman.
Nomadic forward Leon Clarke missed several goalscoring opportunities in his side’s most recent match at home to Reading, and Clayton Donaldson has thus been touted as a replacement and may well pair former Leeds player Billy Sharp in attack.
Manager Chris Wilder is expected to deploy, once more, his favoured 3-5-2 formation with Enda Stevens and George Baldock providing width on the left and right channels respectively.
Venue: Elland Road (capacity of 37,890).
Coverage: The match is to be broadcast on live television on Sky Sports Football, while live text commentary will be featured on the BBC Sport website. As ever, radio commentary is available on BBC Radio Leeds.
Referee: Scott Duncan, who officiated Leeds’ goalless draw at home to Preston North End in August.
Leeds have not relinquished a single point from a winning position in a league fixture at home since October 2016, in an eventual 1-1 draw with Wigan. Since, the Whites have taken the lead in 14 matches and have won them all.
Since Chris Wilder took charge of the club in May 2016, Sheffield United have won more matches (39) and have amassed more points (127) than any other English league team.
In his last four league starts against Leeds, Billy Sharp has scored four goals.
Leeds United: Ronaldo Vieira
A tenacious, tough-tackling midfielder of 19, Ronaldo Vieira has firmly established himself as a favourite among the Leeds United supporters and was an integral component of the first team during Garry Monk’s reign. Leeds’ recent victory over Bristol City was predicated upon his contribution in the match, and the Guinea-Bissauan midfielder’s bullish strength and abrasiveness in the tackle will serve his team well against a potent Sheffield United attack.
Sheffield United: Clayton Donaldson
Bradford-born Clayton Donaldson was acquired from Birmingham City by Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder in the recent summer transfer window for a fee reputed by Wilder to have been approximately £50,000. Since his arrival, Donaldson has scored two goals in two appearances, with both goals being scored against a beleaguered Sunderland at the Stadium of Light. An imposing, industrious forward aged 33, Donaldson is a dependable professional and a salient asset to a Sheffield United team that has confounded all expectation so far this season.
In spite of the defeat to Leicester City, I approach this game not with trepidation or apprehension but with optimism, because there presently is good cause to be sanguine as a Leeds United supporter.
The team’s ruthless vanquishing of Bristol City away from home made plain Thomas Christiansen’s willingness to adapt his tactical methods to differing scenarios and, for the future, this augurs well.
Sheffield United could plausibly be one of the most challenging and competitive opponents that we will face in the entirety of this season; there will likely be a febrile atmosphere within the confines of Elland Road tonight and this, coupled with the strength of the respective teams, should make for a most intriguing match.
I think it would be expedient for Christiansen to employ the 4-3-3 formation once more due to the opposition’s potency in attack, and because I consider that this is a fixture that will be won and lost in the middle of the park. The industrious and workmanlike triumvirate of Kalvin Phillips, Eunan O’Kane and Ronaldo Vieira must again be selected if Leeds are to negate the influence of Mark Duffy, John Fleck and Paul Coutts.
We require a win to maintain our assault upon the division’s uppermost reaches, as do Sheffield United - there will be goals, but for whom?
Prediction: Leeds United 2-2 Sheffield United - I can envisage this contest as a frenetic 2-2 draw, chock-full of passion, drama and exemplary attacking football. (Though I would much rather Leeds won by a goal to nil in an insipid game of few chances.)
Photo: Action Images
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