After a boring (then thrilling) 1-0 win over Brentford last Saturday, Garry Monk and his men will look to continue their incredible form after Christmas when they travel to Deepdale for a Boxing Day match up with Preston North End. An away win for Leeds United could potentially put them as high as 3rd in the table, depending on how Reading does against Norwich City and how Huddersfield fares with Nottingham Forest.
A loss, however, could knock Leeds down to 7th in the table. Still in December, that wouldn’t be reason for concern, but every point counts if you’re hoping for promotion.
Injured players Chris Wood and Pablo Hernandez look to be recalled into Monk’s plans on Monday, as Chris Wood avoided serious damage to his hamstring, and Pablo returned to first team training earlier last week. These two players are desperately needed back for the Leeds offence to function, and Boxing Day is the perfect time for their return, as the January window is looming.
To me, a win on Boxing Day will come down to these three key factors:
1. Provide plenty of service for Chris Wood.
Last week’s game against Brentford showed us how much we need our Kiwi up top. His presence in the team boosts team morale, and it is almost as if we cannot play Monk’s style of football with success if he is not on the pitch. Since I expect him to be back for this game, we will likely see Kemar Roofe back behind him, which will open up space for Wood, a crucial necessity if we are to come away with a win at Deepdale.
2. Contain Aiden McGeady.
The Everton winger on loan to Preston is nowhere near the player he used to be, but even at the age of 30, he can still get around full-backs and provide deadly crosses that can expose a back line. Charlie Taylor needs to make sure he does not get caught up the field when Preston have possession, and he needs to be in constant communication with whoever is playing in front of him, whether that’s Dallas or Doukara on that left wing. If we can limit McGeady’s role in Preston’s attacking game, not only will Preston be predictable going forward, but it will take a lot of pressure off of our other three defenders.
3. Limit Preston set pieces.
As we all know, defending corners and free kicks has often proven to be our Achilles’ Heel. We saw it against Brighton, and we have seen it many times before. It is all too easy for Rob Green to have a bad game, and set pieces increase the chance he’s called into action. Our defenders need to make sure that if Preston do indeed get a set piece in our half, they communicate well and limit the amount of shots on target.
With both teams thinking they should come out with all 3 points, let’s take a look back at the last 5 games for each of these teams in the EFL Championship.
Leeds United: W-W-L-W-W.
The only loss in Leeds’ last five coming to Premier League contenders Brighton, so Monk and his men are confident they can come away with the win on the road after last week’s last minute winner vs. Brentford. Leeds are strolling right now, and it will take a lot of hard work and effort from Preston to stop their momentum.
Preston North End: D-L-W-D-W.
Erratic form as of late for Preston sees them just a few points outside the top 6. A win for them could see them as high as 8th in the table but a loss could also see them fall to 13th. The loss in their previous five matches was a 2-1 away defeat to Sheffield Wednesday.
Dating back to 2005, Leeds and Preston North End have been somewhat even. Leeds currently are unbeaten in their last three meetings, winning two. Their last away win at Deepdale was a 2-1 scoreline back on the 8th of March, 2011.
Last 10 matches vs. Preston North End: D-L-D-W-L-W-L-W-W-D.
Preston North End vs. Leeds United
EFL Championship fixture
Deepdale, Preston, Lancashire
LUTV, BBC Radio Leeds, International Listings
Monday, December 26, 2016
07:00am PT / 10:00am ET / 3:00pm BT
Leeds United predicted starting XI
Green, Ayling, Bartley, Jansson, Taylor, Vieira, Bridcutt, Sacko, Roofe, Dallas, Wood
Preston North End predicted starting XI
Maxwell, Baptiste, Clarke, Huntington, Cunningham, Pearson, Robinson, Johnson, Browne, McGeady, Makienok
I think a win would definitely keep the Monk train rolling, but a draw could do the same. Over the last month, we have proven that we are serious contenders for promotion and that we can win on the road. However, I think Preston are a tricky team to beat tactically. They are diverse and also inconsistent, so for us to win, the bad Preston have to show up. If a decent team comes to play on Boxing Day, I think we draw. A draw wouldn’t be a bad result on the road either. But my prediction is that Monk and his men will come out of Deepdale with all 3 points. 1-3 to Leeds.