Happy Holidays, you Whites!
Hopefully everyone is having a great holiday season so far. How could you not? Leeds United are in fifth and find themselves in a playoff position on Christmas for the first time since 2011. What a jolly position to be in!
However, now is not the time for complacency.
Leeds have a potentially difficult matchup against a determined Preston North End team. Preston has scored in every home match against Leeds since 1935, so this will be a true test for the in-form defense of United.
Here are the key players to keep an eye on, some potential men of the match, and some matchups worth mentioning.
1. Chris Wood
With his league goal-scoring tally at 14, he is the undoubted king of goals for the Whites. As long as he keeps being the main (and at times only) goal scoring threat, he will be a potential MOTM. Back from a slight hamstring injury, Wood will be one to watch on Boxing Day.
Simply put, the man knows how to be in the right place at the right time.
Leeds United 1, Rotherham 0 - Chris Wood pic.twitter.com/yhEvuMAQRU— Marching On Together (@motforum) November 26, 2016
The question is: how will the Big Kiwi deal with the stellar defense of Preston?
Tom Clarke has been having an impressive season so far for the Lilywhites and has been statistically their best player. Clarke is the image of consistency for Preston and will be tasked with keeping Wood quiet.
Surely, Wood will have to have some tricks up his sleeve to make life difficult for the defense of Preston as he looks to bring his sizzling form back to the starting XI.
2. Hadi Sacko
The picture of youth.
Sacko is a 22-year-old that can win you a game or make a mistake that leads to a goal. A flash of brilliance with his dribbling skill will come in handy against the opposition. Sacko has a real chance to create some confusion and openings for the players around him.
@SimplyBamba Goal 3) vs Birmingham City, ⚽️ Hadi Sacko Elland Road 13/08/16 pic.twitter.com/w9jckbc3ND— Jack (@DeadlyAntonsson) August 24, 2016
Manager Garry Monk will be hoping that he can get the best out of Sacko when he matches up against Ben Pearson.
Pearson is known for being a quality interceptor of the ball, but he does struggle with staying disciplined. Lack of discipline is one quality that can really hurt your team, especially when your position is defensive midfielder.
When Pearson has his moments of lapsed judgment, look for Sacko to pounce and launch attacks that could lead to Leeds United goals.
3. Kyle Bartley
A leader of men. The match winner last time out against Brentford.
Can one argue against his importance to this Leeds side?
Bartley has been on a good run of form that has helped Leeds keep a clean sheet for the last two matches. One of the best ways to give your team a chance to win? Keep them off the scoresheet. That’s something Monk will be expecting from Bartley and the rest of the Leeds back four.
Preston will like their chances if main man Paul Gallagher comes back from a lengthy absence. Gallagher has five assists and a goal for the Lilywhites and can easily be the difference maker in this matchup.
Dangerous passes are a distinct skill of Gallagher and Preston North End. This danger will be something Bartley and Pontus Jansson are expected to cut out and keep to a minimum to give Leeds a chance at another clean sheet.
One final point to remember: Bartley is the second highest scorer for Leeds with three. Read that again. He remains a danger in the air, so if United can get set piece opportunities, there is no reason he can't get his head on the end of a good cross to add to his tally.
Let’s hope that head of his can do it again.
Will the good times keep rolling for Leeds? Is another clean sheet in store?
Let us know in the comments below as we all march on together in hopes of a late Christmas present on Boxing Day. MOT.