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Sunday, 5th August 2018 Kick-off 16:30
Match Preview: Leeds United v Millwall - Rivalry rekindled as Whites face Lions
Saturday, 20th Jan 2018 11:00 by @LucasMonk_
Following their 1-0 defeat away to Ipswich Town last Saturday, Leeds United (7th) today play host to Millwall (16th) with Thomas Christiansen and his charges ravenous for three precious points that could propel them back into the coveted play-off positions.
After being reduced to ten men owing to Eunan O’Kane’s vagary in the first half of a dour duel at Portman Road in their last outing, Leeds United were not rewarded for the mettlesome nature of their performance - in particularly austere circumstances - as a howitzer on the part of Bersant Celina cruelly divested them of a point and condemned them to a third defeat in four matches.
Since, the club have exuded much urgency to reinforce Thomas Christiansen’s squad. With great haste, the signing of Adam Forshaw was concluded on Thursday evening - for a reputed fee of £4,500,000 - and the arrival of the 26-year-old from divisional rivals Middlesbrough has engendered an appreciable degree of sanguinity amongst supporters in spite of the team’s desultory and undisciplined performances of late. As a placatory act, it has been of great efficacy; it is an irrefragable fact of the game that even the most capricious supporters can be made to resile from a path of vituperative criticism owing to a salient signing and with the United management now making a conscious effort to bolster the squad further by capturing a forward, there exists a fervent belief that Leeds are still firmly in contention to secure a play-off berth come May.
Though Forshaw shall not make his debut today owing to a minor affliction, United, notwithstanding their slipshod performances in recent matches, have good reason to enter this match with ample confidence. Opponents Millwall, who last visited Elland Road in February 2015, have not yet won an away match in the Championship this season, though it should be noted that the Lions’ defence is far from porous on the road; only Aston Villa, Derby County and Wolverhampton Wanderers have conceded fewer goals in away fixtures in the present campaign than Millwall (15).
The match, due to be played amidst the backdrop of an effervescent and vociferous crowd, most certainly promises to be a spectacle of much intrigue; both clubs maintain a profound enough enmity toward one another for fixtures between the two to be described as clashes between two acrid rivals. United and their supporters shall be expectant of a victory to atone for Millwall’s richly merited 1-0 triumph in the reverse fixture at The Den in September, but the Lions, who have only lost one of their last five matches, are deemed capable by many observers of securing a creditable result against a team that have failed to score even a solitary goal in their last three league matches.
A victory for Leeds could see the club reclaim a play-off berth, whilst one for Millwall might increase further the gap between themselves and the relegation zone.
The Leeds United squad is presently beset by a plethora of injuries and suspensions.
Furthermore, Republic of Ireland midfielder Eunan O’Kane and diminutive playmaker Samuel Sáiz are both suspended after the two were sent off in recent fixtures against Ipswich Town and Newport County respectively.
Finally, Belgian left-back Laurens De Bock could have an inaugural appearance for Leeds conferred upon him by head coach Thomas Christiansen following his arrival from Club Brugge last week, and Northern Ireland winger Stuart Dallas is once more available for selection after recovering from an ankle injury. However, Adam Forshaw will not be afforded a debut following his arrival from Middlesbrough on Thursday evening owing to injury.
No new injury problems have arisen for Neil Harris and Millwall, though defender Byron Webster and winger Shane Ferguson remain sidelined.
Moreover, Harris, an erstwhile attacking stalwart for the Lions who has served as the club’s manager since March 2015, is almost universally anticipated to refrain from altering the team that eked out a 1-1 draw against play-off aspirants Preston North End last week.
Finally, Lee Gregory, who assisted Aiden O’Brien in the scoring of Millwall’s opening goal at home to Preston recently, is expected to partner Steve Morison - formerly of United - in attack.
Venue: Elland Road (capacity of 37,890).
Coverage: As ever, supporters who are unable to attend the match will have recourse to live match commentary on the part of BBC Radio Leeds; the station’s bespoke Leeds United coverage begins at two o’clock.
Referee: The match shall be officiated by David Coote (Nottinghamshire), who last refereed a United match in April 2017: a 2-0 defeat for the Whites, then managed by Garry Monk, away to Brentford.
Thus far this season, Pontus Jansson has been United’s most proficient player - according to WhoScored.com. The website deems the imperious central defender to have recorded an average statistical rating of 7.29, which exceeds that of every other Leeds player.
At this juncture, Kemar Roofe is United’s most potent attacking influence. In 27 appearances in all competitions this season, the former Oxford talisman has scored on no less than ten occasions.
In home fixtures, Leeds have been unvanquishable of late; Thomas Christiansen’s team last lost a match at Elland Road to Derby County in October, and have since recorded three victories and two draws.
Many beholders have opined that Millwall’s profligacy in front of goal this season could ultimately see the calamity of relegation befall them come May. Though Neil Harris has crafted a tenacious and cogent team, the Lions have scored a mere 29 goals in 27 matches this season and Sunderland, presently the division’s bottom club, have netted as many. If the club are to avoid relegation and consolidate their position within the Championship, Harris must somehow elicit more clinical displays from Steve Morison, Lee Gregory and Tom Elliott.
The Lions’ top goalscorer is presently midfielder George Saville. A 24-year-old who began his career with Chelsea, Saville has scored a highly commendable seven goals for Millwall this season after returning to The Den from Wolverhampton Wanderers for an undisclosed sum.
Millwall, along with Birmingham City, have procured the fewest points of any team in the Championship in away fixtures this season (6).
Following what was a wholly dispiriting defeat - their third in four matches - away to Ipswich Town last Saturday, Leeds United are once more scheduled to do battle with a team that places an eminent emphasis on the physical, not technical, aspects of the game.
A conspicuous source of consternation ahead of this match is United’s flagrant indiscipline in recent fixtures. First arose Samuel Sáiz’s idiocy in Wales; he was judged to have expectorated toward Newport County’s Robbie Willmott before being steadfastly shown a straight red card. Then came Eunan O’Kane’s asinine vagary at Ipswich, when he ostensibly headbutted Town left-back Jonas Knudsen. Matches between Leeds and Millwall - not least in recent times - have been infamously febrile and scarcely bereft of controversy, and it is thus of the utmost salience that United adopt a more circumspect approach today. The club’s head coach, Thomas Christiansen, was absolutely correct to opine as such in his preliminary press conference on Friday afternoon.
Millwall, a robust, direct and practical outfit, are indubitably capable of securing victory at Elland Road today in spite of their failure to win in an away fixture so far this season. They shall doubtless play in an impassioned way, seeking to unsettle Leeds by producing copious crosses into the penalty area and by being typically abrasive in the challenge. If United are as docile and pusillanimous today as they were in the reverse fixture at The Den in September, then they shall surely suffer once more the ignominy of defeat and cede crucial ground to their fellow play-off aspirants. Neil Harris, who has performed rather meritoriously this season, has inculcated in his players an admirable tenacity that has been particularly visible in Millwall’s home matches this season and Leeds must, at the very least, match them for their fervour and be every bit as desirous of victory.
Prediction: Leeds United 1-0 Millwall
I trust that Leeds will secure their first victory of the year today, but the match shall be a most competitive one. Divested of the creative faculty of Samuel Sáiz, United may well require a modicum of elusive fortune to vanquish a determined Millwall team - but I believe they will narrowly prolong their unbeaten sequence of results at Elland Road by winning the game.
Photo: Action Images
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