Match Preview: Norwich City v Leeds United - Will Whites end barren run on the road?
Saturday, 28th Apr 2018 12:50 by @LucasMonk_
After securing a hard-fought three points against local rivals Barnsley in a typically febrile Yorkshire derby, Paul Heckingbottom and his charges do battle with Norwich City at Carrow Road this afternoon in their final away match of the season.
This has been another excruciating week for Leeds United supporters and ahead of this inconsequential duel with Norwich, there is only one salient question on everybody’s lips: can United end the tortuous, labyrinthine wait for an away win?
We shall have our answer later today, but what is immediately clear is that, rather serendipitously, this ostensibly pointless game might not be so pointless after all.
Did I say it was inconsequential? I was momentarily disillusioned, for this is still a football game, a battle, a skirmish, and we all know there will be consequences and we all want to win it - none more so than Paul Heckingbottom.
Now awash with cash, football is a volatile, mutable and febrile business and it has been this way since Sky invented it in 1992. Most of the people connected to it are, therefore, capricious gits. One day an enthusiastic acclaimer, and the next a withering critic. An environment in which the stakes are so high and the outcomes are so unpredictable is one in which a manager, or head coach, is always vulnerable, which is why so few remain at clubs for very many years, crafting and shaping a long-lasting legacy.
Our season has been competitively over for some time now, but Heckingbottom needs results as much as he did when he arrived at Elland Road in February. Getting results is the only means by which he will garner support from United’s deeply disgruntled support, who are mostly contemptuous of him because he came from Barnsley and he has won just thrice since succeeding Thomas Christiansen.
Profundities about hard work delivered bluntly in pre-match press conferences will not butter any parsnips if, on the next day, the players are ambling around languidly as though they were already on their holidays. It would take a mere string of defeats for Heckingbottom to lose his job - a fact he will be acutely aware of if he is worth his salt as a head coach.
Okay, there is an incentive for Heckingbottom to win this match; what about the players?
There is no incentive for most of the players - even though this is their last chance to end this dreadful spell on the road before the season’s end - and this match is thus another test of Heckingbottom’s coaching credentials. Many of the squad’s more senior players have, unlike Tom Pearce, who would probably have become a free agent at the end of the season if not for a trinity of fantastic displays at left-back, nothing to prove. They do not care. We know this to be the case because Bailey Peacock-Farrell, Paudie O’Connor and Pearce - who have made a combined total of just 16 professional appearances - have put them to shame in recent weeks.
So make them care, Hecky, and if you cannot, then somebody needs to go.
Will United end their fallow spell on the road and secure a first away win since Boxing Day? Or will Norwich supplant them in the compelling battle for 12th position?
Have your say by leaving a comment below!
Should he be selected, cultured playmaker Wes Hoolahan will play his last match for Norwich at Carrow Road after a decade of service to the Canaries.
Midfielders Louis Thompson, Marco Stiepermann and Matthew Jarvis are all sidelined with injury, whilst Alex Tettey is a doubt due to a back ailment.
But head coach Daniel Farke has recourse to the services of midfielder Tom Trybull and defender Christoph Zimmermann after both players recently recovered from injuries.
Defenders Conor Shaughnessy and Laurens De Bock are both injured, along with striker Tyler Roberts.
Luke Ayling and attacking neophyte Ryan Edmondson have both travelled with the squad.
After setting up the winner against Barnsley last time out, Kemar Roofe should lead the line again here.
Norwich (4-3-3): Gunn; Reed, Klose, Hanley, Lewis; Hoolahan, Leitner, Vrancic; Maddison, Oliveira, Murphy.
Leeds (4-2-3-1): Peacock-Farrell; Berardi, O’Connor, Jansson, Pearce; Phillips, Vieira; Alioski, Saiz, Hernandez; Roofe.
Record: 14 wins, 15 draws and 15 defeats.
Top Goalscorer: James Maddison (14).
Most Assists: James Maddison (8).
Shots Per Game: 13.9.
Average Possession: 53.8%.
Average Pass Completion: 80.1%.
Average Aerials Won: 16.9.
Record: 16 wins, nine draws and 19 defeats.
Top Goalscorer(s): Kemar Roofe and Pierre-Michel Lasogga (10).
Most Assists: Pablo Hernandez (8).
Shots Per Game: 11.8.
Average Possession: 50.1%.
Average Pass Completion: 72.5%.
Average Aerials Won: 21.8.
Kick-Off and Coverage
The game is scheduled to begin at 15:00 (GMT), and coverage shall be available via BBC Radio Leeds from 14:00.
Referee: John Brooks (Melton Mowbray) has officiated just three Championship matches this season, showing seven yellow cards.
Assistants: Lee Venamore and Nigel Lugg.
Fourth Official: Brett Huxtable.
Carrow Road has not seen many Norwich goals this season - just the 23 - and given that Daniel Farke’s team have averaged the second highest number of shots per home game in the division this season (15.6), serious questions must be asked of his side’s proficiency in front of goal.
Factor in United’s fallow spell on the road - they have not won an away match since Boxing Day - and you hardly have an intriguing afternoon in prospect.
Norwich will be anxious to say farewell to Wes Hoolahan with three points, but they’ll get just the one here.
Prediction: Norwich 1-1 Leeds United
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Photo: Action Images
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