We can all agree that Leeds' form as of late hasn't offered us fans anything to scream and shout about. In fact, aside from the odd glimour of hope here and there, this entire season has been pretty abysmal. But given the team's recent performances for one and a half games against Sunderland and Bolton perhaps there is reason to feel slightly more opitimistic going into Saturday's Championship clash with Birmingham.
Lets begin by taking a look at this weekend's visitors to Elland Road. Birmingham City currently sit 12th in the Championship table and are only a mere seven points away from the play-off places. We all know how tight the Championship can be so this could shift in the space of two games.
The appointment of Gary Rowett, from League Two's Burton Albion, as manager has been the club's turning point this season. Since succeeding Lee Clark in October the West Midlands side have only lost two of their last 12 games and are currently on a three game winning streak in all competitions.
Worringly, away from home they're pretty solid. From their previous five away matches they have amassed 11 points, second only to Bournemouth in the form table. Quite a stark contrast to Leeds United's fortunes so far this season as the only away win of the season for Leeds was way back in September against, now, table-topping Bournemouth.
Birmingham's main goal threat comes from, 30-year-old Clayton Donaldson, who has chalked up five goals from his last five appearances. The 6ft 1 centre forward scored all three goals for Birmingham in their 3-1 victory over Wigan last Saturday. His other two goals came in their previous fixture where they travelled to Nottingham's City Ground and returned home with three points after a comprehensive 3-1 win.
Another danger man that Leeds need to be wary of is David Cotterill who has scored three from City's last five matches. Not only can he score goals but the majority of their created chances come from him. According to Squawka, Cotterill has created seven chances in his last five appearances, one of which lead to a goal. He also has amassed a successful passing rating percentage of 94, 72, 68, 75 and 88 through these last five appearances for Birmingham.
Demerai Gray is certainly the Brummie's most exciting, young talent and he's gained interest from many clubs around England. The 18-year-old midfielder thrives on running at defenders and he did just that when these two sides last met in September. Gray's best game came against Reading when Birmingham ran out 6-1 winners. He bagged himself a hattrick that day and earned a career high succuessful passing rating of 83%.
One notable stat of Gray's is that for his four goals this season all of them have been scored with his right foot. If United's defence can keep the tricky youngster on his left foot then we should limit his scoring chances.
In September's reverse fixture at St. Andrew's the two sides came out with a point a piece after the game ended in a 1-1 draw. It was a fairly tight and even affair that saw Mowatt's late goal give the Whites a deserved point. A lot has changed since then. Lee Clark is worrying about his systems over in Blackpool now and the, then, fairly new Leeds team has had time to settle down.
Though the two teams have had a polar opposite turn of form from one another I believe that this is a game that we can win. Ditching the dreaded diamond formation and a little shake up in the starting eleven has done wonders for Neil Refearn's men.
Gary Rowett has been fairly consisntent in his squad selections. And why not? Given the club's resurgent form under him why should he alter a winning formula. All of this is not to say that Leeds have no hope of coming away from this with nothing. One noted weakness is their defence's lack of ability to deal with through balls.
So I'd imagine we'll see Antenucci make a return to the starting 11 come Saturday. Our main point of attack is going to be feeding the Italian with some well timed through balls for him to latch onto. Another weakness of Birmingham's that Leeds will be looking to exploit is their inefficiency to defend against skillful players. Adryan, Cook and Byram should be our focal point when it comes to this area of play. Combined Adryan's skills, Cook's passing ability and Byram's pace and dribbling skills and we should have an area of the pitch to focus on.