|Leeds United 1 v 0 Hull City|
Saturday, 23rd December 2017 Kick-off 15:00
Match Preview: Leeds United v Hull City - Can Whites topple Tigers to reach the top six?
Saturday, 23rd Dec 2017 10:48 by @LucasMonk_
Following their sedulous performance and ensuing 1-0 victory at home to Norwich City last Saturday, Leeds United (7th) today play host to Yorkshire rivals Hull City (19th) at Elland Road in their final home fixture of the year - with Thomas Christiansen’s resurgent United ravenous for three more precious points in their bid for play-off qualification.
Last Saturday saw Leeds United continue their remarkable renaissance under the equanimous guidance of head coach Thomas Christiansen with a slender victory over Norwich City. United’s reward for their manufacturing of an unremarkable, but competent performance? Three invaluable points to propel them to within a solitary point of both Sheffield United and Aston Villa, the occupants of sixth and fifth place respectively.
It must be said that the newfound imperturbability inculcated in the team by a melange of Christiansen’s highly effective coaching methods and the acute anguish of a barren run - in which Leeds had successive defeats inflicted upon them - has been of much avail to United in recent matches. Notwithstanding their attacking impotence in open play, it was Leeds’ resilience and assiduity when out of possession that paved the way for a victory of sensible salience and the scorer of the decisive goal, Pontus Jansson, typified his team’s performance on the day. The ability to win matches in spite of performances that may not elicit many encomiums from those in the employ of the most prominent papers is a frequently praised characteristic of a successful team, and this, ostensibly, is a discipline in which Christiansen’s United are becoming exceedingly adept.
Leeds’ spirited fightback in recent weeks will doubtless afford hope to Nigel Adkins, who replaced Leonid Slutsky as the head coach of today’s opponents earlier in the month. Since suffering the grievous wound of relegation from the Premier League for the second time in three seasons, Hull City have floundered and writhed to the tune of crippling off-field turbulence and Adkins has inherited from Slutsky a squad that has been decimated by sales and injuries and has appeared utterly bereft of confidence for much of the campaign.
The direct consequences of a concatenation of decisions taken by the club’s owners, who have been embroiled in controversy owing to the attempts of owner Assem Allam to alter the club’s name to ‘Hull City Tigers’, have been dwindling attendances, slipshod performances, the departures of integral members of the first-team squad and, most unfortunately, the creation of a profound and a nigh on irremediable schism between the supporters and the club’s hierarchy. As the complexity of the East Yorkshire club’s struggles have been compendiously chronicled in the media for some time, many observers were left befuddled by Adkins’ acceptance of the position he now holds - a position proven by Slutsky’s tenure to be utterly untenable and incredibly invidious. If Adkins is to be successful in his endeavour to instigate a miraculous revival in Hull’s fortunes, he must elicit from his players performances of vigour, resilience and application as Christiansen has done at Elland Road.
Having lost only once in their last five matches, United are the conspicuous favourites for the match but the Championship is a division renowned for its inherent mutability. Leeds’ obtaining of another three indispensable points is not assured and Thomas Christiansen and his players would benefit from being conscious of the fact that there is no such thing as a facile match in this division.
Leeds United head coach Thomas Christiansen will doubtless be pleased to have striker Pierre-Michel Lasogga available for selection once more. The German, on loan from Hamburg, last made an appearance for United in November’s 3-1 defeat away to Brentford at Griffin Park.
However, Northern Ireland winger Stuart Dallas remains sidelined with injury, as does striker Caleb Ekuban, and Christiansen does not anticipate his recovery before the end of the year.
There are no other injury concerns for Leeds, who are expected to line up in a 4-2-3-1 disposition once more today.
Finally, Paweł Cibicki is likely to retain his berth on the right channel after producing a sumptuous cross for Pontus Jansson’s winning goal against Norwich City last weekend, and Felix Wiedwald shall once more start in goal for United.
Hull City head coach Nigel Adkins is hopeful that winger Jarrod Bowen will be fit enough to start the match today, after the winger came on as a substitute in last weekend’s narrow defeat to Cardiff City.
Furthermore, midfielders Markus Henriksen and Kevin Stewart have recuperated from their respective encumbrances and are thus available for selection.
Finally, forward Frazier Campbell remains absent through injury, as do Will Keane and Abel Hernández, so Nouha Dicko, formerly of Wolverhampton Wanderers, will likely spearhead Hull’s attacking vanguard today.
Venue: Elland Road (capacity of 37,890).
Coverage: As is always the case, supporters who are unable to attend the match will have recourse to live match commentary on the part of BBC Radio Leeds - their coverage commences at 14:00 (GMT). Alternatively, one could intently monitor proceedings by way of the live text commentary providing on the BBC Sport website.
Referee: Stephen Martin, from Staffordshire, who last officiated a United match in January as Leeds defeated Rotherham by a 3-0 scoreline at Elland Road.
Formerly a talismanic figure in the colours of Oxford United, attacker Kemar Roofe is presently Leeds United’s top scorer in the Championship - having scored six goals in 19 appearances.
At the time of writing, Leeds have won 11 of their Championship matches under Thomas Christiansen, drawing thrice and losing on eight occasions.
Having scored 34 goals whilst conceding 26, Leeds’ goal difference of eight is the sixth-highest in the division.
Hull City’s top scorer is presently Jarrod Bowen. The 21-year-old winger has scored an impressive ten goals in 21 appearances for the Tigers this season.
This season, Hull have won just five of their Championship fixtures this season, drawing on seven occasions and losing on ten.
Only Wolverhampton Wanderers (42) have scored more Championship goals this season than the Tigers (37), but a porous defence that has conceded 40 goals in 22 matches leaves the club with a goal difference of minus three - the 16th-highest in the division.
Memorable Match: Leeds United 4-3 Hull City - February 17th, 1990 - First Division
Goals by John Hendrie, Vinnie Jones, Imre Varadi and Gordon Strachan secured victory for United in this pulsating encounter from the 1989-1990 season.
United’s penultimate home fixture of the frenetic festive period serendipitously sees them do battle with a Yorkshire rival in the form of Hull City today. In marked contrast to last week’s visit of Norwich City, this is a fixture I approach in a manner rather more circumspect; I think this to be idiosyncratic but judicious at the same time. Though Norwich’s league placing at the time of Leeds playing against them was 16th, and Hull are presently 19th, derbies of any form, no matter the degree to which the mutual enmity of the respective groups of supporters is pronounced, are uniquely mercurial.
I recall, vividly, the 5-1 debacle suffered by Huddersfield Town at Elland Road in February 2014. Leeds vanquished the favoured Terriers - who had already beaten the Whites 3-2 at the John Smith’s Stadium earlier in the season - against a backdrop of off-field turbulence. That was a scenario I did not, at any juncture, envisage, as only hours prior to kick-off that day, I had been vociferating profanities - though I am not such a liberal user of expletives now - following the dismissal of Brian McDermott as United manager amidst Massimo Cellino’s attempts to wrest control of the club. Notwithstanding Leeds’ uproarious affairs away from the field of play, Huddersfield were comprehensively beaten and were utterly soaked in ignominy - even after taking the lead through Danny Ward. No match is a foregone conclusion, and no match is facile; United must be acutely conscious of this to win today.
With regard to today’s opponents, the most eminent threats carried by Hull are those of 29-year-old Kamil Grosicki and 21-year-old Jarrod Bowen. Grosicki, a fleet-footed Polish winger who has scored six goals this season whilst assisting four, has been a figure of much importance at the KCOM Stadium since leaving Rennes for East Yorkshire in January and his speed and agility have made him an invaluable asset to the Tigers - one they may have to relinquish in the forthcoming transfer window if the unscrupulous Allam regime continue to plague the club with their flagrant incompetence. Bowen, meanwhile, may perhaps prove an immeasurably more difficult star to retain; he is presently City’s top scorer, and, according to Transfermarkt, his market value has burgeoned and increased by approximately £400,000 owing to his performances this season. Bowen’s remarkable return of ten goals in 21 appearances shall doubtless pique the interest of other clubs, and, given the predicament in which they find themselves, Hull may face an insurmountable task to keep the former Hereford winger at the KCOM Stadium for the foreseeable future. The two are by far the most threatening attacking players within the City side and must perform to the maximum of which they are capable if Nigel Adkins’ team are to gain anything from this fixture.
Finally, I expect of Leeds a comfortable victory - though even the judgements of the most supposedly oracular pundits can often prove imprecise. United must exude resilience, tenacity and diligence as they have done in their last four matches against Barnsley, Aston Villa, Queens Park Rangers and Norwich if they are to secure a crucial victory and, with it, three invaluable points in their bid to better last season’s finish of seventh.
Prediction: Leeds United 2-0 Hull City
I anticipate Hull to be deployed by Nigel Adkins in a cautious and conservative formation in a bid to attack Leeds on the periphery; they shall likely seek to have plenty of players behind the ball and this will necessitate a slither of panache from Samuel Sáiz, Ezgjan Alioski or Pablo Hernández to allow United to perforate City’s defence and win the match.
Photo: Action Images
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