I’m ready to get back to Leeds United football. How about you? It’s been too long since we’ve seen the lads in White on the pitch, and we’ve got what might be the biggest game of the entire season to look forward to on Sunday. To kick off our weekend full of coverage of the big tilt against Newcastle, we’re bringing back the Leeds Against The World Q&As.
“Coming Home Newcastle” is our SB Nation sister-site covering the Magpies, and their Bryan Nelson and Steven Hebrank sat down for eight questions about how it feels leading the Championship after six seasons in the Premier League. They’re confident and professional in their answers, and I wish them nothing but the best after about 4pm on Sunday.
The top team in the Championship, the Magpies sit with 37 points out of 16 games played, and an eye-popping +21 goal differential. They’ve also won their last eight. They’re good.
Leeds sit as high as they’ve been in years and have won four in a row coming into Sunday’s game. They have 26 points from 16 and have a goal differential of +2.
So how do Bryan and Steven feel going into a sold-out Elland Road on Sunday? Let’s find out. Meet Newcastle United through the eyes of Bryan and Steven, and get ready for a weekend full of Leeds-Newcastle coverage from us here at Through It All Together.
Leeds Against The World: Newcastle United
Hey Bryan and Steven, thanks for joining us. After a slow start, you’re dominating the Championship early on. How has it been as a fan post-relegation?
Steven: This year has been great! It feels like we’re watching the start of something big (when we can watch). It’s frustrating not being able to watch this team play every week but that’s life in the Championship I guess. Newcastle has always had as high of a ceiling as any other club as far as success and the foundation is being rebuilt this year.
Our entire staff picked Newcastle to bounce back up in our preseason predictions; think that’s a definite? Where will you finish?
Bryan: As a writer, I do not believe that anything is definite. You report on the good and bad, and you try to see where it takes you. Newcastle United right now has been giving me a lot of good to write about. But there is no such thing as a definite in soccer. Leicester won the Premier League last season, so we know that anything can happen. Nothing is definite.
I will say that the pressure is on Newcastle because of the immense expectations placed on them by the media. And that includes myself. Their team is strong, and with Rafa Benitez at the helm, why not expect them to go all the way?
If anything, that pressure could be their undoing.
What’s the situation with Dwight Gayle? I know he was lighting it up for you early on, but he’s picked up a knock? Do you expect him to play Sunday? And will he stay with Newcastle in January?
Steven: Gayle has had a month to heal from whatever was ailing him after the win against Ipswich. I think it’s unlikely Rafa Benitez plays with 2 strikers, so I think it's a toss up whether Mitrovic or Gayle starts.
Mitrovic has been on fire for Newcastle and Serbia but Rafa seems to rate Gayle higher than the big Serb. He’s quick and really knows how to find space in behind defenses. The message that Rafa has put forth is that no important players will be leaving in January.
Who are your best players at this point in the season? Who should we watch for?
Bryan: Best players would be Jonjo Shelvey, Karl Darlow, Matt Ritchie, and Yoan Gouffran. Keep an eye out for Ritchie’s crosses, and Jonjo Shelvey’s passes.
What’s one matchup we should watch for on Sunday?
Bryan: Mohamed Diame has gotten a bad rap, but I think that if he plays against Leeds, he may find some success. Isaac Hayden has also done well when given the opportunity to prove himself, so I think those two can offer a lot.
Give us a reason you’ll win:
Steven: This team has loads of talent and depth. Everyone is capable of scoring and the back four seems settled and gives very few goals up.
Give us a reason you’ll lose:
Bryan: Any number of reasons. But if anything, it will be that Leeds did their homework, and wish to define their season with a victory against the club everyone seems to be rooting for.
What’s your predicted result?
Bryan: I’m biased, so I do think that Newcastle will win. But I think it will be with a 2-1 result. I think Leeds will keep us honest.
Steven: 1-0 Newcastle. After the international break Rafa should have his team well organized and we’ll find the back of the net at least once.
So they don’t give us much chance, but why should they? Top of the league, unbeaten since September 17th, they’re sitting on top of the Championship after years of struggling in the Premier League. Bryan and Steven’s Magpies present the biggest challenge yet for Leeds United; we’ll see if we’re up for the task.
Thanks again to the gents from “Coming Home Newcastle” for helping us with the fourth Leeds Against The World of the season. Check out their site and their social media for the best Newcastle coverage on the internets.
James Mahoney wrote a piece on what the sell-out means for Leeds United fans earlier this week, and we’ll have our full preview tomorrow. Enjoy the off-day Saturday, watch some games, and rest up. Sunday should be one to remember (and hopefully in a good way). MOT.