On Saturday Leeds United will travel to John Smith's Stadium to take on Huddersfield Town in one of the year's most anticipated matches. The meeting between the bitter Yorkshire rivals is sure to be played at a fever pitch and there is no shortage of sub-plots that will define the affair.
As things stand now, Leeds sits in 20th place with 29 points, while Huddersfield is just ahead of the Whites in 15th place and has accumulated 34 points. The teams may be separated by a mere five points, but there is not too much differentiating Neil Redfearn's Leeds side and Chris Powell's Huddersfield squad at this point of the season.
To provide some context to the affair, the two sides met earlier this season at Elland Road and Leeds emerged sound victors by a score of 3-0. Rodolph Austin, Souleymane Doukara, and Mirco Antenucci all found the back of the net in the victory and Leeds will be seeking to replicate their performance against the Terriers on Saturday. Below are the highlights from that match and after the jump are thoughts on the state of each team.
Leeds - Neil Redfearn's squad appears to have put a disheartening December in the rearview mirror and turned things around in January. The newly instated 4-2-3-1 formation has worked wonders for the boys in blue, white, and gold, as the team is undefeated in their last three league games. Draws earlier in the month against Bolton and Birmingham set the tone early on and a thrilling victory over Bournemouth has the Whites riding high.
Who To Watch For - In the last three games several players have greatly impressed, but on Saturday there are a couple players in the starting eleven who should catch the eye of those in attendance or watching on television. For starters, Lewis Cook has come into his own in January and is arguably Leeds' best player, ever though he is a 17-year-old. The offense seems to run through Cook lately and he should continue on the same upward trajectory against the Terriers.
While Cook has gotten loads of praise from his manager, pundits, and fans, the man grabbing all the headlines lately has been Luke Murphy. The 25-year-old Englishman is showing signs of the player he can be and has been bossing the center of the park from his central midfield position. To make things even better, Murphy knocked home this cracking game-winning goal against the league-leading Bournemouth in Leeds' last match. If that doesn't give you a reason to look out for Murphy, I don't know what will.
The X-Factor - One of the biggest stories coming out of Leeds United's camp this week was confirmation that Sol Bamba, an Ivory Coast international, had arrived on loan from Palermo of the Serie A. Even though the center-back has only been training with his teammates for a week, there is reason to believe that Bamba could step right into the fold against Huddersfield. Giuseppe Bellusci, who normally starts, will be serving a red-card suspension and Jason Pierce is off to Wigan for an undisclosed fee. Add in Redfearn's comments about Bamba earlier in the week and it seems as though the 30-year-old could get a chance to marshall the center of Leeds' defense and showcase his talents.
Redfearn says both Bamba & Ngoyi have settled in well: "They give us options." Adds that Bamba has a "fatherly figure about him". #lufc— Leeds United FC (@LUFC) January 29, 2015
Huddersfield - The Terriers will surely be seeking to avenge their defeat at the hands of Leeds from earlier in the season, but Chris Powell's team has experienced an up and down stretch of form in January. The team has lost to Reading and Middlesborough, but has defeated Watford and most recently up-ended Wigan 1-0. While Wigan is sitting in relegation fodder, Huddersfield has managed to amass six points this month and is further up the standings than Leeds. Huddersfield will also be looking to defend its home turf and the derby status will act as further motivation.
Who To Watch For - Conor Coady is one of the leaders of Huddersfield and will do little wrong from his central midfield position. The 21-year-old Englishman has found the back of the net three times so far this season and scored his team's lone goal against Wigan. He is in form and will be leaned upon heavily to propel Huddersfield to victory. The other man to look out for on Huddersfield is the pacy Sean Scannell. The Irish midfielder has two goals and five assists on the year and is arguably Huddersfield's most consistent attacking threat.
The X-Factor - Huddersfield's leading goal-scorer, Nahki Wells, has led the front-line for Huddersfield this year. The Bermudian international and former Bradford City man has tallied 8 times in league play and makes the most of his small frame. He has a tendency to cut inside onto his strong foot and isn't afraid to unleash from distance. The 25-year-old also set a lofty goal of scoring 20 times this season, so the forward surely doesn't lack in confidence. Keep an out for Wells because he could punish Leeds' back-line if they aren't careful and aware of his place on the pitch at all times.
Prediction - Both Leeds and Huddersfield are coming off solid wins, but it will be interesting to see how much form factors into the game. After all, derby matches are usually characterized by passion, commitment, and willingness to fight. Given Leeds' dependence on all of these qualities as of late, Redfearn's team should escape from John Smith's Stadium with a narrow 2-1 victory.
What do you think the score will be? What are your thoughts on Leeds' or Huddersfield's form? Any players stick out to you? Share your thoughts below.