After a much welcome break from league action, Norwich City make their way to Elland Road tomorrow night in what i think will be the toughest match of the season so far for Leeds.
Our growing injury list has somewhat slightly reduced thanks to the 2 week break, but two major players in Becchio and Snodgrass are still doubts ahead of this game. If both are missing it would be a huge blow.
Despite the growing line of players waiting for treatment outside the physio's room, we are still undefeated which is an encouraging sign, but the last two games have produced draws against Carlisle and Charlton at home. One was more disappointing than the other. I'll leave that up to you to decide.
One area affected has been the defence. Crowe, Bromby, Higgs, Parker and Marques have all had knocks. Unfortunately Parker looks like being out for some time after hip surgery.
Higgs though has been the biggest a loss, an assured figure in goal that has given fans a bit of confidence when a cross comes in and in all aspects of his game. Unfortunately Casper Ankergren (aka Sir flap-a-lot) hasn't bred that confidence in the United faithful with his recent displays, but only two goals have been conceeded whilst he has been in between the sticks for the last three games.
And we still haven't lost. What might be considered more of a worry is that we've only scored three goals in those three games, two were against Darlington in the JPT. The loss of Snodgrass has been blamed for this, but Leeds have more than enough talent to compensate overall. And in the early season players like Johnson and Howson were more effective than Snodgrass.
Heading into the Norwich game Leeds will have to be on top of their game at both ends. Ever since the disastrous start of THAT defeat against Colchester, Norwich took the U's manager and said please do that for us. So far so good. Norwich have steamrollered up the league into 6th, scoring goals left right and any other direction you care to think.
14 goals in the last 6 games to be precise, and only conceeding 4. Thats the sort of form many expected of them pre-season. Away from home, City haven't lost in their last 3 matches.
One thing this season has been built on for Leeds is their solid defence, and it's going to get a tough workout tomorrow night. Whether it be Casper in goal or not, United must go into this game confident in their defence, showing the same grit and determination to win, be it at all costs. Because Norwich will be ready to pounce.
The Canaries have a pacy midfield that is very good on the counter attack. The key player leading this is Wes Hoolahan. Chipping in with five goals, he has also helped striker Grant Holt to get his 9 goals so far this campaign. Alot of the creativity comes from him, Leeds will need to keep him quiet.
At the back in recent games Norwich have been solid, with the re-emergance of Gary Doherty partnering Askou. But it seems Norwich fans reckon they are good in the air, but not good with pace against them. Beckford could be the man to exploit this. If Grella starts he could be useful as well. He might be a better player in this match compared to Kandol.
But as i said in a previous post, they are a tall, strong side and Leeds would do best keeping it on the floor for this game. Something Leeds can do and do well when they need to.
Bradley Johnson could be a key player if Snodgrass doesn't make it. Johnson will come up against Otsemobor at right back. Johnson has been a goal scorer as well as creator for Leeds and if he comes out on top, combined with the pace of Leeds frontline led by Beckford, Norwich will have problems.
Looking at the injury list it's hard to predict the team, but it has been mooted that Snodgrass and Crowe could make it. With that in mind i'd go with:
Crowe Kisnorbo Naylor Hughes
Snodgrass Doyle Howson Johnson
Subs: Higgs, Bromby, Michalik, Prutton, Kilkenny, Robinson, Kandol,
1st versus 6th, Sky cameras in attendance, two very in form teams who like the odd goal or two. It'll be great for the neutral. I'm going, and i don't think it's going to be a relaxing evening! It'll be very very close.