|Leeds United 0 v 2 Hull City|
Saturday, 29th December 2018 Kick-off 15:00
Match Preview: Leeds United v Hull City - Whites eye eighth win in a row against resurgent Tigers
Saturday, 29th Dec 2018 09:51 by @LucasMonk_
Leeds United are pursuing an eighth win in succession as they host local rivals Hull City this afternoon.
Marcelo Bielsa's table-toppers have treated their fans to an imperious winning streak this month.
United's frenetic, last-gasp win over Blackburn on Boxing Day followed another febrile fillip at Aston Villa. Star striker Kemar Roofe again played an integral role, and struck twice in stoppage time to keep his team top of the table.
Their fans have watched this season unfold with incredulous eyes. That win was yet another invigorating twist in a most enthralling season. But incredulity is now giving way to concrete belief. Belief that the good times are on their way back. As Leeds make winning a habit, their fans do believing.
With this in mind, confidence is high ahead of today's visit of Hull City. But it would be churlish to ignore City's recent mini-renaissance under Nigel Adkins.
The Tigers have produced an unbeaten run of six matches to steer clear of the relegation zone. This run includes a creditable goalless draw at home to Norwich, and excellent victories over Swansea and Preston.
Forward Jarrod Bowen has been crucial to this remarkable revival. He is the club's top scorer and bagged a brace in the 3-2 win over Swansea. In midfield, Jackson Irvine has also played a starring role. He netted twice as Hull defeated Preston 2-1 on Boxing Day in their last match.
Irvine is now on international duty with Australia. His absence weakens City and is a boost for Leeds. But the real fulcrum of City's turnaround is available. At least for now.
Tommy Elphick has been a revelation since moving to the KCOM Stadium from divisional rivals Aston Villa. He has added ballast and solidity to what had been a weak and porous rearguard. So impressive he has been that Villa are to recall him next month in the hope of curing their own defensive maladies.
What Hull will do without the Elphick prescription of defensive solidity is a question for the future. It is quite possible that they will cough and wheeze and splutter as they slide down the table once more. For now, they stand a much better chance of getting something from this match with the seasoned campaigner in their lineup.
Given the recent form of both sides, a close, competitive match seems a likely outcome. Predicting a winner is rather more difficult. What is almost certain is that this will be an intriguing clash of styles.
Leeds are anomalous. The antithesis of nearly all their Championship counterparts. The way they favour the purist's kind of football. The sheer volume of young players in their team. The way they harass their opponents out of possession.
Hull are rather more orthodox. They favour experience. Alongside Elphick are the established Frazier Campbell, Eric Lichaj and David Marshall. They play dark, cynical, defensive football. Containment, over constant pressing, is most beloved of them.
Neither style enjoys inviolable superiority over the other. One of football's most piquant attractions is the vast array of ways in which teams can attain success. This is what makes calling a winner here all the more difficult.
United, who are without Patrick Bamford and Tyler Roberts, will often find it difficult to break Hull down. But they will pass and probe and their visitors will have to withstand this for 90 minutes. Can they? Only Middlesbrough have shut out Leeds at Elland Road this season. They are also the team with the best defensive record in the division.
One therefore has to consider the hosts favourites. But it would be dangerous to write off a resurgent Hull. They have played well of late and will provide stern opposition.
Leeds will rely on Pablo Hernandez's elan and panache to perforate a disciplined defence. He is their creator-in-chief. If the visitors can find a way to negate him, a shock may well be on the cards. That, though, is easier said than done.
The Spaniard has made more assists (18) than any other player in the division this year. He can produce from nothing moments that mean everything, and one feels he will play an important role again today.
Prediction: Leeds United 2-0 Hull City
United won the reverse fixture in October. Tyler Roberts scored the only goal of the game. I anticipate a similarly close scoreline here, but back Leeds to do the double over a local rival.
Photo: Action Images
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