Match Preview: Fulham v Leeds United - Can Whites hold firm to deny rampant Cottagers?
Tuesday, 3rd Apr 2018 17:45 by @LucasMonk_
After recording a rare victory over Bolton Wanderers at Elland Road on Good Friday, Leeds United face promotion aspirants Fulham at Craven Cottage tonight…
For Leeds United, Good Friday was most pleasurable. Caleb Ekuban’s first goal of the season, scored in the juvenescence of a competitive duel, sent the Whites on their way to a rare victory as they defeated Bolton Wanderers 2-1.
However, joy in football is ephemeral. The victory, welcome though it was, was not a panacea for the myriad ailments of the Elland Road club. Leeds remain anchored to midtable, and the chain is one seemingly adamantine, and one wrought by their own careless hands. One victory does not transform the middling into the marvellous - Caleb Ekuban can hardly be anointed a goal-poaching prodigy after one strike against a floundering Bolton - and myriad issues still require resolution. With his contract due to expire, what is to become of Pablo Hernandez? Also, what is to become of Pawel Cibicki and his ilk, given that he ostensibly has no future at the club?
Those issues merit swift and decisive action, but will most likely seen to once the Championship season has concluded. For now, matters on the pitch take on greater precedence, particularly in the minds of the supporters. Tonight’s trip to Fulham promises to be an eminently tricky one. The Cottagers are third in the table, and find themselves in a propitious position as they bid to avenge last season’s defeat in the play-offs to Reading. When United hosted them at Elland Road in August, the end result was a goalless stalemate, but one feels that repeating the feat tonight is a rather more arduous task.
For Fulham, since a 1-0 defeat away to Sunderland in December, have perchance been the division’s most proficient team. That worsting by the Mackems is their most recent in Championship football. Middlesbrough, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Aston Villa, Sheffield United and Derby have since been vanquished by Slavisa Jokanovic’s charges, who plausibly play some of the most aesthetically gratifying stuff in the country. Spearheaded by Ryan Sessegnon, Alexander Mitrovic and Lucas Piazon, they play progressively and seamlessly through the thirds, with mouthwatering adroitness, passing and probing and carving opponents asunder with technical brilliance. Promotion, as it was last season, is within their grasp and, after letting it slip so ruefully last season, Fulham will be keen to take that next step this time around.
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Fulham head coach Slavisa Jokanovic has a full complement of players from which to select his matchday squad for this clash.
Alexander Mitrovic is expected to work in tandem with Ryan Sessegnon and Lucas Piazon in attack, whilst Tim Ream is likely to partner Denis Odoi in central defence.
Leeds United head coach Paul Heckingbottom must be regardful of a burgeoning injury list when selecting his side for this match.
Metronomic midfielder Adam Forshaw is the member of the squad at Elland Road to be ailed by injury, and Luke Ayling, Liam Cooper, Conor Shaughnessy, Tyler Roberts, Kemar Roofe and Laurens De Bock are all also sidelined with injury.
After scoring his maiden Championship goal to hand United the lead against Bolton on Good Friday, Caleb Ekuban is expected to partner Pierre-Michel Lasogga in attack again here.
Fulham (4-3-3): Bettinelli; Fredericks, Odoi, Ream, Targett; Johansen, McDonald, Cairney; Piazon, Mitrovic, Sessegnon.
Leeds United (4-4-2): Peacock-Farrell; Dallas, Jansson, Pennington, Berardi; Saiz, Vieira, O’Kane, Hernandez; Lasogga, Ekuban.
Leeds enter this match having recorded, after a tortuous wait, only their second win since Boxing Day after defeating Bolton Wanderers 2-1 at Elland Road on Good Friday, bur the Whites are in otherwise egregious form.
Meanwhile, Fulham will be highly confident of narrowing the gap between themselves and Cardiff City, the occupants of second place, having not lost a Championship match since December.
Leeds United: WLLDLW
Record: 20 wins, 12 draws and seven losses.
Top Goalscorer: Ryan Sessegnon (14).
Most Assists: Ryan Fredericks (7).
Shots Per Game: 13.7.
Average Possession: 57.2%.
Average Pass Completion: 82.8%.
Average Aerials Won: 16
Leeds United (12th)
Record: 15 wins, eight draws and 16 losses.
Top Goalscorer: Pierre-Michel Lasogga (10).
Most Assists: Pablo Hernandez (8).
Average Possession: 50.1%.
Average Pass Completion: 72.4%.
Average Aerials Won: 22.
Kick-Off and Coverage
The game is scheduled to begin at 19:45 (GMT), and coverage shall be available via BBC Radio Leeds from 19:00.
Referee: Peter Bankes, who has officiated 25 Championship fixtures this season - showing 90 yellow cards and five reds.
Assistants: Daniel Leach and Timothy Wood.
Fourth Official: Craig Hicks.
Writer's Verdict: A tough night is in prospect for middling United
Good Friday’s victory over Bolton Wanderers was most certainly a welcome one. It was, beyond peradventure, a pleasant day. A packed Elland Road, with a febrile atmosphere within. Caleb Ekuban netting his first league goal for the club and then grinning like a Chesire cat as he wheeled away to celebrate. Pablo Hernandez’s winning goal. Three points.
It was a pleasurable afternoon, with more positives to celebrate than negatives to lament.
But, then again, it was only Bolton. I try to refrain from being pejorative, but Phil Parkinson’s team, on the day, were easy pickings. Their impotence in attack served to perfectly explain their being embroiled in a relegation battle. The final scoreline, 2-1, flattered them. Had Ekuban been less profligate in front of goal, it might have been 4-1.
Tonight’s match against Fulham will be immeasurably more difficult. Slavisa Jokanovic’s team are rampant. They will most certainly enjoy a hegemony of possession. They will most certainly fashion chances. They will most certainly force Leeds to weather an attacking storm or two.
Which begs the question: can Leeds hold firm and secure a result that would confound all expectation?
I suspect not. I anticipate a comfortable victory for the hosts, but I would implore fellow supporters to be temperate in that event. The focus must be the bigger picture. Whilst it would be nice, while Heckingbottom gets the lie of the land, to pick up a few wins here and there, what we all really want is for this season to end and summer to begin.
Prediction: Fulham 3-1 Leeds United
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Photo: Action Images
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