|Leeds United 1 v 0 Sheffield Wednesday|
Saturday, 13th April 2019 Kick-off 17:30
Match Preview: Leeds United v Sheffield Wednesday
Saturday, 13th Apr 2019 08:06 by @LucasMonk99
Leeds United host Sheffield Wednesday this afternoon in what will most certainly be a momentous Yorkshire derby in front of a sell-out crowd at Elland Road (17:30 kick-off).
More than a year has passed since Leeds United last duelled with Sheffield Wednesday at Elland Road. Paul Heckingbottom’s foundering Whites were enduring a fallow spell that had seen them win just once in 14 matches and eradicated their hopes of claiming a play-off berth. The Owls were also having travails of their own, being embroiled in a relegation battle after a similarly egregious run of form. Adthe Nuhiu’s scoring of a late winner would encapsulate and accentuate the prodigious waste that was last season, as he bludgeoned past a feeble Matthew Pennington and slotted the ball past a despairing Bailey Peacock-Farrell. Much has changed since.
Marcelo Bielsa appears to have perfected the careful art of alchemy, having turned ostensible also-rans such as Liam Cooper and Ezgjan Alioski into highly competent Championship players. United’s transmogrification from a sluggish, uncouth and feeble team anchored to mid-table like lichens are to rocks into a tactically flexible, possession-based and positive, attacking outfit has indubitably been one of the stories of the season. With five games of the season remaining, they have a strong chance of promotion back to realm of almost obscene opulence and febrile fanfare that is the Premier League.
Standing in Leeds’s way today is a Sheffield Wednesday team that has itself undergone great change. The appointment of Steve Bruce and disposal of Jos Luhukay in February has seen the Owls surge up the table and hand themselves an outside chance of making the play-offs - something that seemed unthinkable mere months ago. Bruce has instilled discipline and made his side difficult to beat, with Wednesday having lost just once in their last 13 matches. Even if their team fails to qualify for the play-offs, Wednesdayites have good reason to be optimistic ahead of next season.
Tuesday’s 2-0 away defeat of Preston North End - one that saw Patrick Bamford amongst the goals once more after a string of poor performances - coupled with Sheffield United’s 1-1 draw at Birmingham City the following evening saw Leeds return to second place, just a point ahead of the Blades. However, with Chris Wilder’s side facing a functionally illiterate and relegation-threatened Millwall at Bramall Lane, one has the creeping suspicion that Bielsa and his charges cannot afford a slip-up here against what will be tough opposition.
Marcelo Bielsa is likely to named an unchanged side to that which emerged victorious against 10-man Preston in midweek. Pablo Hernandez overcame an ankle injury to produce an impressive performance in that match, and will again be crucial here.
Steve Bruce is hopeful that Barry Bannan will be available following his missing of his team’s impressive defeat of Nottingham Forest earlier in the week. Dominic Iorfa and Rolando Aarons, on loan at Hillsborough from Wolverhampton Wanderers and Newcastle United respectively, are also in contention after recent injuries, as is tough-tackling midfielder Sam Hutchinson.
Leeds United (4-1-4-1): Casilla; Ayling, Jansson, Cooper, Alioski; Phillips; Hernandez, Klich, Roberts, Harrison; Bamford.
Sheffield Wednesday (4-4-2): Westwood; Palmer, Hector, Lees, Fox; Matias, Bannan, Reach, Forestieri; Fletcher, Joao.
Both sides come into this match in somewhat irregular form, but they also come into it on the back of a victory.
Leeds United: WLWLW
Sheffield Wednesday: WWDLW
Writer's Verdict: Whites urgently require derby win against resurgent Owls
Leeds United know that five wins from their last five matches, starting with the visit of Sheffield Wednesday today, will see them return to the Premier League. Add to this the spice of a Yorkshire derby and there is surely sufficient incentive for Marcelo Bielsa’s team to go above and beyond to secure what would be a momentous victory today.
Wednesday will undoubtedly prove tough opposition, not least due to their newfound defensive ballast. They have conceded just nine goals in their 13 matches since Steve Bruce took charge and have kept eight clean sheets in the process. Central defender Tom Lees, formerly of United, and Michael Hector are in good form, as is goalkeeper Keiren Westwood. Steven Fletcher and Lucas Joao are a powerful striking partnership that will test Leeds defenders Liam Cooper and Pontus Jansson.
Patience could well be the order of the day for United as they bid to break down an obstinately difficult side that will no doubt sit deep and attempt to frustrate them. A win here is crucial if Leeds are to secure promotion.
Prediction: Leeds United 1-0 Sheffield Wednesday
Photo: Action Images
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