|Leeds United 0 v 2 Preston North End|
Tuesday, 28th August 2018 Kick-off 19:45
Match Preview: Leeds United v Preston North End - Whites seek further cup fillip
Tuesday, 28th Aug 2018 16:38 by @LucasMonk_
Thus far, Leeds United have confounded all prior expectation since the beginning of the new season. Five victories, and a creditable draw away to Swansea City, have given rise to a burgeoning optimism that is further fuelled with each success, all owing to Marcelo Bielsa’s amazing alchemy.
Virtually the same team of also-rans that floundered in the ignominiously inglorious depths of mid-table last season now sits proudly, and deservedly, atop the division’s pinnacle. For sure, the fact that United are yet to lose under Bielsa has drawn comparisons to Thomas Christiansen’s similarly sprightly start to life in the Championship last year, but this side is proving to be an altogether different machine, passing with purpose and precision, scoring with alacrity and aplomb, and sweeping all before them with fulsome finesse as its adoring supporters watch on.
All this has seen Friday night’s keenly-anticipated duel with Tony Pulis’s Middlesbrough, the antithesis of Bielsa’s Leeds, dubbed a match between two clear contenders for promotion. As such, many view, through a prism of pragmatism, tonight’s Carabao Cup fixture to be no more than some vexatious distraction, something that must merely be put up with rather than embraced.
And they are right to do so, but it would be wrong to decry this game as being utterly without meaning. For starters, clashes of this kind afford fringe players the chance to make their mark, and healthy competition will not at all be to United’s detriment. And nor would it be a great shame for them to maintain the momentum they have accrued from a quite superlative start to the campaign by recording another win.
After two defeats in succession, opponents Preston will certainly be anxious to get back on track with a victory over the Whites here; Alex Neil’s side went down 2-0 to both Norwich City and Derby County respectively. An influx of youthful talent has thus far done little to aid North End in fulfilling their aspirations of bettering last season’s placing of 7th, but the season remains young, and in Neil the club possesses an equable figure with a reputation for playing progressive football and developing young players, which augurs well for its foreseeable future.
Will Leeds, who defeated Bolton to make it this far, maintain their unbeaten run? Or can Preston, who saw off League Two Morecambe in the previous round, get their campaign up and running with a surprise victory at Elland Road?
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Both sides are expected to make numerous changes to their lineups as they prioritise their forthcoming league fixtures.
For Leeds, Patrick Bamford will most likely lead the line in place of Kemar Roofe having scored on his last start in this competition, whilst loanees Lewis Baker, Jamal Blackman and Jack Harrison could all also be afforded starts. Talented academy graduates Tom Pearce and Jamie Shackleton will also be hopeful of making the starting lineup.
Preston made 11 changes for the visit of Morecambe in the last round, but will be unable to do so here after being depleted by injuries to Sean Maguire, Tom Clarke, Alan Browne, Calum Woods and Billy Bodin.
Josh Earl, Louis Moult, Tom Barkhuizen, Daniel Johnson and Brandon Barker could all start for the visitors.
One to Watch: Patrick Bamford, Leeds
The dexterous striker, who joined Leeds from division rivals Middlesbrough for a princely £7m in the summer transfer window, got off the mark for his new employers in the last round against Bolton.
After impudently rolling the ball through the legs of Jack Hobbs, Bamford coolly slotted home to score his first United goal in the first half of that eventual 2-1 victory, and he will be keen to impress once more as he rivals the in-form Kemar Roofe for the sole striking berth in the starting lineup.
Referee: Tony Harrington (Cleveland), who is now in his eighth season officiating EFL matches.
Writer’s Verdict: Leeds United 2-0 Preston North End
Without question, the eyes of everybody associated with Leeds United are on Friday night’s crucial clash with Middlesbrough after that stunning triumph at Carrow Road that saw Mateusz Klich, Ezgjan Alioski and Pablo Hernandez on target.
And without question, Marcelo Bielsa will elect to rest some players for tonight’s visit of Preston North End - given the secondary importance of this match.
But the Argentine has never been one to make sweeping, indiscriminate changes, and United have accrued much momentum after their fine start to the season. Moreover, those players who shall likely come into the team - including precocious youngsters Tom Pearce and Jamie Shackleton - will be more than capable of doing the necessary tonight.
Preston, in stark contrast, have got off to a stuttering start, and thus another Leeds win appears the most probable outcome, especially when one takes into account the home side’s potency in attack and the fact that North End are yet to keep a clean sheet this term.
Photo: Action Images
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