Match Preview: Leeds United v Queens Park Rangers - The End for Hecky?
Sunday, 6th May 2018 09:23 by @LucasMonk_
Leeds United are aiming to end a disappointing Championship campaign on a positive note by securing back-to-back home victories as they host Queens Park Rangers this afternoon in an early kick-off (12:30 GMT).
A deeply disenchanting Championship campaign draws to a close for Leeds United with the visit of Queens Park Rangers this afternoon - in what is seemingly destined to be an archetypally slovenly end-of-season encounter.
Both sides have little other than pride for which to play, with Leeds occupying 14th place in the table and Rangers 15th, but it should be noted that a victory would be auspicious for Paul Heckingbottom, United’s beleaguered head coach, after he attracted vituperative criticism following last week’s 2-1 defeat away to Norwich City.
Indeed, a report in today’s copy of the Sun claims that Elland Road impresario Andrea Radrizzani is considering Heckingbottom’s future at the club, and that an unsatisfactory result today could tempt him into a change.
When the sides clashed at Loftus Road in December, Leeds ran out comfortable 3-1 winners owing to a Kemar Roofe hat-trick and Heckingbottom’s position could well depend upon a repeat of that feat today in front of an estimated crowd of around 30,000 supporters.
The Future: Where do Leeds go from here?
The question on everybody’s lips is this: where do United go from here? After an abject campaign in which Leeds have failed to deliver for the club’s steadfastly loyal supporters, it is abundantly clear that changes are necessary at Elland Road come the summer.
And it would seem that Andrea Radrizzani, whilst mindful of that palpable yearning for change, is only prepared to afford the club’s management a derisory budget. Since acquiring full control of the club from compatriot Massimo Cellino last year, Radrizzani has imposed a strict wage limit of £15,000 for potential recruits and, given much of the flotsam that has been acquired for the first-team since, it could well be argued that United’s budget is insufficient in order for them to attract the quality players they require in order to return to the Premier League.
Nevertheless, the squad at Elland Road is in sore need of being revitalised, and if Radrizzani is not prepared to loosen the purse strings, affording more opportunities to the precocious graduates of the club’s academy may prove a solution.
Goalkeeper Bailey Peacock-Farrell, central defender Paudie O’Connor and left-back Tom Pearce have all excelled in recent weeks in spite of disappointing results, and their success has prompted calls for more youth to be introduced into a languid Leeds team.
Ryan Edmondson, a striker plucked from York City last year, travelled with the first-team squad to Norwich last Saturday - could the fans have their wish in the final match of the season?
Team News: There's no Pablo!
Defenders Luke Ayling, Conor Shaughnessy and Laurens De Bock will also miss out, owing to injuries, as will striker Tyler Roberts. Gaetano Berardi serves the final match of a five-match suspension.
Opponents Queens Park Rangers will be hopeful of building upon a convincing 3-1 victory at home to Birmingham last time out, and Ilias Chair, Bright Osayi-Samuel and Eberechi Eze could all retain their starting berths.
However, R’s boss Ian Holloway will not be able to call upon defenders Nedum Onuoha and Jack Robinson, as well as striker Jamie Mackie, as they have not travelled with the squad. Joel Lynch and Alex Baptiste are also absent with injuries, whilst influential midfielder Massimo Luongo has been afforded a period of rest ahead of the forthcoming World Cup.
The Managers' Viewpoints:
United head coach Paul Heckingbottom: “Winning at any time is important, but especially on the the last day of the season at home. A send-off for the fans is always important.”
Rangers boss Ian Holloway: “It’s a bit of a strange one, kicking off at that time, but but I want to finish with an away performance as good as our last home performance. We haven’t got the points on the road but I feel in the last few months our fans are liking our players and I feel they have enjoyed watching them grow.”
One to Watch: Luke Freeman
For a great many observers, Luke Freeman has been Rangers’ best performer this season.
Alacritous and occasionally irrepressible, the 26-year-old has enjoyed a stellar campaign in his favoured attacking midfield role, scoring five goals and creating a further 12 - the latter contribution accounts for 12% of QPR’s league goals this season.
If Leeds are to secure a positive result today, then they must be regardful of the potent threat posed by the erstwhile Stevenage and Bristol City man.
The Referee: Darren England
Darren England has taken charge of 28 Championship fixtures this season, showing 107 yellow cards and two reds.
Statistics and Prediction:
The game could well degenerate into a humdrum end-of-season affair, but both sides will doubtless be keen to end their disappointing campaigns with a victory.
And the statistics suggest that those due to be in attendance this afternoon will have goals to savour or rue. Leeds have conceded at least one goal in each of their last five home outings, whilst QPR have failed to keep a clean sheet in any of their last 10 matches on the road.
The R’s will find some solace in the fact that United have failed to defeat them at Elland Road in their last three attempts. Rangers’ last defeat here came in December 2010, with Max Gradel scoring an impressive brace.
Both teams head into this one with nothing to play for after disappointing campaigns, but their respective woes in defence may make this match a fairly intriguing one.
Prediction: Leeds United 2-2 Queens Park Rangers
Photo: Action Images
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