Match Preview: Leeds United v Nottm Forest - Can Whites fell the Tricky Trees?
Monday, 1st Jan 2018 07:51 by @LucasMonk_
Following their slipshod performance in a thoroughly dispiriting and ignominious 1-0 defeat to Birmingham City - the team presently bottom of the Championship - at St Andrew’s Stadium on Saturday, Leeds United (5th) today play host to Nottingham Forest (14th) at Elland Road in their first match of 2018.
On Saturday, an imperious sequence of results on the part of Leeds United was brought to an abrupt and acrimonious end by Birmingham City, who claimed victory over an impotent United side divested of the services of influential midfielders Ronaldo Vieira and Eunan O’Kane. Prior to this debacle, Leeds had won four matches in succession and though the manner of their besting of Queens Park Rangers, Norwich City, Hull City and Burton Albion was eminently unremarkable, few beholders foresaw defeat against a beleaguered Birmingham team struggling to avert the calamity of relegation to League One. But a defeat arose, and elucidated the exigency for the arrival of reinforcements at Elland Road in the January transfer window.
Fortunately for United and for head coach Thomas Christiansen, today’s fixture is one most opportune. First, Leeds are at home and as such will possess recourse to the vociferous support of an appreciable crowd. Second, opponents Nottingham Forest are bereft of a manager; Mark Warburton, formerly of Brentford and Rangers, was relieved of his managerial responsibilities yesterday after guiding Forest to a merely one victory in their last seven matches. Third, the Reds have won only three of their away matches in the Championship this season. Of course, no match in the Championship is facile, but this is a contest that United, esurient for crucial points to remain in contention for promotion, shall be expecting to emerge from as victors.
For Forest, Warburton’s dismissal has been the mother of much schism among the club’s supporters. Some have opined that a club of their illustrious stature should expect more of itself than 14th position in the Championship; others have postulated that the City Ground outfit have all too frequently dismissed managers in recent seasons and that Warburton should have been afforded more time. From the perspective of an outsider, the sacking appeared somewhat austere. But Forest were indubitably plagued by a patent inconsistency throughout Warburton’s reign. Though his win ratio of 40.54% was substantially higher than that of recent predecessors Stuart Pearce (31.25%), Dougie Freedman (33.3%) and Philippe Montanier (30.0%), he lost precisely half of his matches in charge.
Following Warburton’s egress from the City Ground, Gary Brazil has been expeditiously installed as caretaker manager for a third time since joining the club as a youth coach in 2012 and he will lead Forest into battle today. Notwithstanding their defeat to Birmingham, United’s home advantage, recent sequence of victories and the absence of a manager on the part of their opponents mean that they are considered the favourites to win the match and remain in firm contention for a play-off berth. Brazil has masterminded a victory over Leeds once before, but it must be said that the visitors face a difficult task this afternoon.
The Leeds United squad continues to be afflicted with a smattering of injuries - striker Caleb Ekuban and winger Stuart Dallas remain sidelined - but midfielders Ronaldo Vieira and Eunan O’Kane are once more available for selection after missing Saturday’s defeat to Birmingham.
As the match against Birmingham took place only one day ago, head coach Thomas Christiansen could elect to make alterations to his starting lineup - particularly in midfield. Samuel Sáiz sparkled after coming on as a substitute on Saturday and will likely start in place of Paweł Cibicki, whilst Mateusz Klich, who was also a substitute at St Andrew’s, could start in central midfield alongside Kalvin Phillips.
Finally, calamitous custodian Felix Wiedwald shall retain his goalkeeping berth in spite of yet another costly vagary in the defeat to Birmingham.
Jack Hobbs and Chris Cohen are both unavailable for selection, whilst doubt has been cast on the fitness of Matt Mills and David Vaughan.
Mustapha Carayol, who scored two goals for Leeds during a loan spell in the 2015-16 season, could start on the left flank for the visitors.
Daryl Murphy, a hefty target man, was recalled to the starting lineup for Forest’s recent match against Sunderland, and may be selected by Gary Brazil to spearhead his side’s attack.
Venue: Elland Road (capacity of 37,890).
Coverage: As ever, supporters unable to attend the match will possess recourse to live commentary on the part of BBC Radio Leeds.
Referee: Jeremy Simpson, from Lancashire, who last officiated a United match in October, when Reading visited Elland Road.
Thus far this season, Leeds (3.1) have registered the second lowest number of shots on target per match at home in the division. Presently, only Birmingham City (2.5) have mustered fewer.
United’s top scorer in the present campaign is the former Oxford talisman Kemar Roofe, who has scored ten goals in all competitions this season.
Finally, Leeds’ most prolific creator this season has been Samuel Sáiz, who has registered five assists in addition to averaging the highest number of key passes per match of any United player.
In the current season, Forest (5.2) have registered the second highest number of shots on target per game away from home in the Championship. Only Brentford (5.7) have conjured more.
Presently, Forest’s top scorer is 20-year-old Everton loanee Kieran Dowell, who has scored on no less than eight occasions for the Reds this season.
Forest’s most eminent creative force this season has been Barrie McKay. The Scottish winger has assisted seven Championship goals since joining the club from Rangers in the summer transfer window.
Despite a deeply doleful defeat at the hands of beleaguered basement battlers Birmingham City in their last outing, Leeds United head coach Thomas Christiansen and his players will doubtless be hopeful of securing victory at Elland Road today against a managerless Nottingham Forest outfit that have won just thrice on the road all season.
Leeds were impregnable at home in December - vanquishing Norwich City and Hull City in addition to recording a creditable draw against fellow play-off aspirants Aston Villa - and Forest’s wretched away form means that United are considered favourites to win this match in front of their own supporters.
But, as Saturday’s defeat to Birmingham made plain, there is no such thing as a facile match in the Championship and Leeds cannot afford to produce another insipid and perfunctory performance as they pursue a fifth victory in six games and a first of 2018.
I expect the hosts to emerge from this contest as victors, but I do not anticipate that they will win this match in consummate style. United’s strength in attack should prove sufficient against a porous Forest defence that has ceded 42 goals this season and see them complete a first league double over the East Midlands outfit since the 1970s, but a comprehensive victory this shall not be.
Prediction: Leeds United 2-1 Nottingham Forest
Photo: Action Images
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