Football League World head to Elland Road this weekend to cast an eye over Leeds United’s meeting with Sheffield Wednesday in the Sky Bet Championship.
Leeds enter the fixture top of the Championship table after five points from nine over the Christmas period, whilst Wednesday have slipped outside the play-off places after three consecutive defeats in that time.
There was a tight goalless draw in the reverse fixture at Hillsborough, at a time when the two sides were a lot closer together in the Championship standings.
Marcelo Bielsa has motored Leeds forward, whilst Garry Monk has overseen inconsistency in South Yorkshire. So, ahead of this weekend, the home side look like firm favourites.
And, the return of Pablo Hernandez and Jamie Shackleton adds to Bielsa’s options, even though neither are likely to start for Leeds.
In the opposite camp, a major injury update has rocked Wednesday leading up to the fixture. Steven Fletcher (Wednesday’s top scorer with 12 goals) is missing due to a knee injury, which is set to keep him on the sidelines for 8-10 weeks.
As our graphic shows, Wednesday’s next top scorer is Jordan Rhodes with three, piling extra pressure on the former Huddersfield man to deliver at Elland Road this weekend.
For Leeds, Patrick Bamford will be looking to add to his 10 Championship goals, whilst Jack Harrison (5) is ably supporting him from the wing. Given Wednesday’s two-man axis in attack, Leeds could revert to 3-3-1-3, which would only push Harrison closer to Bamford and add to the Whites’ goalscoring threat.
In terms of Wednesday’s system, it’ll be a ridged 4-4-2, which has brought Monk success against Bielsa in the last 18 months.
They’ve met on three occasions (twice Monk was with Birmingham City), with the current Wednesday boss picking up seven points and conceding only one goal.
It’s fair to say that despite Leeds’ impressive form over Christmas, and the season in general, their tag as favourites should be considered loosely, not least for the fact of who is in the opposite dugout.
Monk has to overcome Fletcher’s absence, but given his recent success against Leeds, he will be confident of making the clash an intriguing one.