Leeds United will be coming off a spectacular undefeated January when they host Brentford this Saturday at Ellland Road. Earlier in the season the two sides clashed at Griffin Park, and the Whites returned home to Yorkshire on the short end of a 2-0 result. However, Leeds is brimming with confidence ahead of this weekend's affair, so the battle against the Bees is anyone's to grab.
As things stand now, Leeds are in 19th place with 32 points and Brentford sit in 5th with 49 points. Judging from the standings alone, it appears as though these two teams are on completely opposite ends of the spectrum, but there is some deception at play here. Neil Redfearn's squad is coming off two impressive victories, all while Mark Warburton's men will be trying to put a disappointing 1-0 defeat against Middlesborough in the rearview mirror.
Given the respective form of Leeds and Brentford, this Saturday's match is shaping up to be a delectable one. Below are some thoughts on the state of each team and some commentary on what the fans should be wary of.
Leeds: In the early stages of the season, Neil Redfearn's squad was significantly struggling with consistency and stringing together positive results. After two draws and two wins in January against in-form and high-level teams, it appears this plague is now a mark of the past. There surely is an aura of confidence at the Thorp Arch training ground, but how much Leeds can build on their performances will determine the outcome of the Brentford clash.
Who To Watch For: In Leeds' recent green patch of form there have been several players positively jumping out, but Saturday's match should be be influenced by two squad members in particular. First off, Luke Murphy's astronomical return to form and Leeds return to their winning ways is not coincidental. The holding midfielder, who has been nominated for player of the month, should string passes together, shield the back four, and provide the occasional moment of offensive brilliance. Secondly, Sol Bamba, who recently was named as part of the Sky Bet Football League Team of the Week, should build off his performance last week against Huddersfield and keep Leeds' defence steady. The 30-year-old Ivory Coast international's veteran presence is a welcome sight along the back-line.
The X-Factor: There are two players in the running for this title. Billy Sharp, who brilliantly knocked home the winner last week against Huddersfield, has the potential to come off the bench and make a sizable difference. If Leeds is down or level late in the match, look for Sharp to come on the pitch and threaten Brentford's goal immediately.
Redfearn says Billy Sharp is "always knocking on the door" - "His attitude has been first class. He's a finisher & has looked bright." #lufc— Leeds United FC (@LUFC) February 5, 2015
The other hidden-gem who could make an impact on Saturday is the newly signed Edgar Cani. The Albanian striker is a bit of an unknown commodity, but it wouldn't be surprising to see him earn some minutes against Brentford. While he doesn't have the most prolific goal-scoring record, it appears as the Redfearn fancies the big-man.
Redfearn on Edgar Cani: "He's a great build. He's got a good touch. He's a welcome addition & brings competition." #lufc— Leeds United FC (@LUFC) February 5, 2015
Brentford: Few envisioned Brentford enjoying the level of success they have so far this campaign. The Bees have been in inspired form against their Championship opposition and have won three of their last four matches. However, their one slip-up occurred in their most recent match - a 1-0 defeat against Middlesborough. Brentford have also managed to score an impressive 44 times, but they have conversely conceded 37 times. Which Brentford team shows up on Saturday at Elland Road could very well decide the outcome of the match.
Who To Watch For: On the offensive side of things, Brentford is led by Andre Gray. The 23-year-old striker has bagged 10 goals so far this season for the Bees and is usually deployed up top as the lone forward. While Gray may not be the most complete footballer on the pitch, he sure has an uncanny knack for finding the back of the net. On the opposite end of the field James Tarkowski and Moses Obudajo constitute notable members of the back-line. Each provides something a little different though. Tarkowski plays beyond his years and commands the back-line brilliantly, while Obudajo uses his pace and athletic ability to bomb up and down the right flank.
The X-Factor: While Brentford has numerous players of great strength and guile, Alex Pritchard often makes the Bees tick. Pritchard is on loan from Tottenham and mans the attacking midfield position with composure, skill, and agility. He has scored five times this season and has even bagged five assists. Arguably Brentford's most complete and dangerous player, Pritchard poses a sizable threat for Leeds on Saturday. He also did this a while back. Pretty sweet stuff.
Prediction: Considering how things are shaping up, this match could go either way. Brentford are near the top of the table, but will be looking to bounce back from a difficult defeat. Contrastingly, Leeds are near the bottom of the table, but are riding a four match unbeaten streak. I'm going to give the upper hand to the in-form team who is buzzing with confidence. Leeds emerges as 2-1 victors on their home pitch.