|Leeds United 1 v 2 Birmingham City|
Saturday, 22nd September 2018 Kick-off 15:00
Match Preview: Leeds United v Birmingham - Bielsa's men bid to remain unbeaten
Saturday, 22nd Sep 2018 11:37 by @LucasMonk_
After a resounding defeat of Preston North End in midweek, Leeds United are aiming to extend their unbeaten start to the season as they play host to Birmingham City this afternoon (15:00pm).
Leeds United’s progression under Marcelo Bielsa’s radical and innovative leadership has so far proven inexorable.
The Whites, who battered Preston North End 3-0 on Tuesday night to remain at the Championship’s summit, are rapidly establishing themselves as firm contenders for promotion.
A notoriously tough taskmaster, Bielsa is ensuring that the players strive for success, strain every sinew both in possession and out of it, and seek to swamp their opponents with sweeping attacks as ineluctable and impetuous as the most formidable tsunamis.
Alex Neil’s Lilywhites had no answer to United’s dynamism and effervescence in midweek, and were fortunate not to have lost by an even greater margin than they ultimately did.
And that performance and result has given Leeds yet more momentum as they bid to end a 14-year exile from the Premier League.
Momentum being the operative word; it encapsulates all that is good about this team. Certainly, a closely-knit squad of just over 20 senior players begets cohesion, and Bielsa’s selecting of mostly unaltered lineups has also helped in accelerating a quite stunning transition from the arid and atrophied effluent Thomas Christiansen and Paul Heckingbottom presided over to the vivacious and venturesome style Leeds employ today.
But as the unbeaten run continues, there is an accretion of confidence with each passing win. This has also helped to ensure that Bielsa’s methods have had an immediate impact; his style is mentally, physically and technically demanding, and requires much self-belief and drive to execute. Winning breeds confidence and confidence breeds good performances; had Leeds lost a handful of their opening matches, the transition may have been achieved less quickly.
Such is United’s momentum that they have also proven unperturbed by injuries to Pablo Hernandez and Kemar Roofe, who both made stellar starts to the campaign and who scored and created crucial goals in August.
Jack Harrison stepped up in the Spaniard’s absence to snatch a late point at Millwall, and Tyler Roberts took on the striking mantle in place of Roofe to great effect as he netted his first goals for the club on Tuesday night.
And now today’s match against winless Birmingham City presents to Bielsa and his players another enticing opportunity to continue to garner even more impetus with a victory.
Will they seize it firmly with both hands? Or will Birmingham send shockwaves throughout the division by securing a surprise first win of their season?
Have your say by leaving a comment below.
Leeds will again be without the services of Gaetano Berardi, Pablo Hernandez, Kemar Roofe and Patrick Bamford, and will likely field an unchanged lineup to that which defeated Preston so comfortably in midweek.
Birmingham duo David Davis and Isaac Vassell are to miss out through injury, and former Leeds head coach Garry Monk could again adopt a 4-4-2 formation with Che Adams and Jutkiewicz up front.
Recent League Form:
One to Watch: Tyler Roberts, Leeds
The Gloucester-born forward, who recently made his debut for Wales and netted his first United goals in midweek, has already excelled in the lone striker role in Kemar Roofe’s absence, and poses a real threat with his electrifying pace and composed dribbling.
Referee: Peter Bankes
Peter Bankes has taken charge of no fewer than five Championship fixtures so far this season, showing 33 yellow cards and one red.
He officiated in United’s rout of Derby County at Pride Park last month.
Writer’s Prediction: Leeds United 2-0 Birmingham City
Today’s match presents to Leeds a clear opportunity to preserve their unbeaten run under Marcelo Bielsa, with visitors Birmingham having failed to win in any of their opening eight league fixtures of the season.
But that is not to declare the game a foregone conclusion; Blues are unbeaten in their last four matches, though all have ended in draws.
And despite having only conceded seven goals, a frightful profligacy that was so apparent last season is threatening to suck Garry Monk’s team, who were the division’s joint-lowest scorers in 2017/18, into a third relegation battle in as many years.
The quasi-embargo that was rightly foisted upon them in the summer precluded the arrival of any real firepower, and Blues are again depending on the likes of Che Adams and Lukas Jutkiewicz; the pair only mustered 10 goals between them in the entirety of last season.
And when one considers that Leeds have kept three clean sheets in their last three matches at Elland Road, which will be populated with a sell-out crowd this afternoon, the picture appears rather bleak for the visitors, who this scribe believes will be sent packing, plaintive and comfortably defeated.
A word on Garry Monk:
The match is of course notable for the return of Monk to West Yorkshire for the second time since his acrimonious departure from Leeds in May 2017, having already failed at Middlesbrough despite being afforded abundant riches with which to assemble a team.
Let us be clear; one does not need to be Nostradamus to see why he inspires such ire in so many fans of the Whites, given the nature of his leaving, but is much of the criticism of people like him not hypocritical?
We football fans love to play the victim and jab a trembling finger at what we perceive to be as traitors, but are we not as every bit as contemptible, if at all possible, for having embraced some truly unedifying people? For having cheered them on?
Plymouth and Luke McCormick. Oldham and Lee Hughes. Ourselves and El Hadji-Diouf, who you could remember mockingly holding his nose whilst preparing to take a corner for Liverpool at Elland Road some years ago.
Do you recall Wayne Rooney's public courting of Manchester City, which prompted enraged supporters of that other team in Manchester to turn up and voice their anger at his door before he eventually penned a new contract and received acclaim for doing so from those very same people?
To say all this is not to valorise how Monk behaved, but we must accept that we fans can be every bit as bad as those players and managers who jump from club to club without a care in the world as a frog does from lilypad to lilypad.
Photo: Action Images
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