After the elation of reaching the 5th round of the FA Cup, head coach Steve Evans now seems ready to accept the reality that the best his team can now achieve in the Championship this season is a top ten finish. Leeds United hasn’t managed a top ten finish since the days of Simon Grayson whose team finished 7th in the 2010/11 season, so all dashed dreams of promotion aside, the top ten would be a decent accomplishment.
Nottingham Forest are currently in the 11th spot and undefeated in 12 league outings, having not lost in the league since their away fixture at Brentford back in November. Leeds meanwhile are sitting not so pretty in 15th but only 3 points behind Saturday's opponents with 36 points.
Both teams endured disappointment in the transfer window in their attempts to secure new striking options. Hampered by the Financial Fair Play rules, Forest were unable to bring in Mathieu Duhamel from Le Havre. The Whites were linked with numerous forwards, but despite Wood being out injured, Evans (speaking on LUTV today) insists Leeds is not a desperate club and won't resort to desperate measures in the transfer window "soap opera." I agree with Evans comment to some extent in that I do not think Leeds are in a desperate situation, but I think we're all disappointed with the lack of ambition shown again, as another season fades to dust.
A growing number of Leeds fans are unhappy with the transfer dealings and indeed the general approach of the ownership into how the club is run. A section of these fans have arranged their own pre-match entertainment in the shape of a ‘protest banner’ being flown over Elland Road from 14:50 hours UK time, weather permitting. They are unhappy at Cellino's treatment of fans regarding the "Pie Tax" scandal and the segregation of home support in the South Stand, as well as broken promises, lack of ambition, and the handling of Sam Byram. They feel so passionately about this that they have financed the fly-by out of their own pockets. The wording of the banner will be along the lines of "Cellino and GFH out." The dubious dealings of GFH should not escape scrutiny, and I cannot believe they are still lingering around after Cellino himself said that the club he bought was full of 'thieves and crooks'.
Despite their unbeaten league run, Forest have only managed 5 goals in their last 5 league and cup outings, conceding 3. They have won 2 games, drawn 2, and were knocked out of the FA Cup by United’s 5th round opponents, Watford, in a 1-0 reversal. They did, however, beat 2nd-place Middlesbrough at the Riverside by that same scoreline.
Leeds’s last 5 outings reads slightly less favorably losing and winning 2, with the remaining game drawn. They have scored 5 goals and conceded 5.
There have been 42 meetings at Elland Road. The Whites have taken the lion’s share of the spoils on 20 occasions, Forest victorious 9 times, with the remaining 13 games drawn.
Players to watch
Toumani Diagouraga again gets a mention after his strike against Bolton helped the Whites march on into the 5th round of the FA Cup. Saturday will be his home debut, and fans will be hoping for more of the same.
With striking options limited, Mirco Antenucci would be my choice to replace Wood and must surely be in contention for a starting place. He was reported as being the subject of a bid from Italian side Foggia in the transfer window, but after that approach was turned down, Antenucci’s agent insists his player is happy at Leeds. He is due a goal. and on occasion has provided spectacularly, though it has been awhile.
Nelson Oliveira netted for Forest the last time these two clubs met at the City ground in December. The former Portugal International and Benfica hitman is Forest’s top scorer with 7.
It was Jamie Ward who found the net in their 1-0 victory over Middlesbrough. He may again feature as the lone man up top if Freedman choses to go with his favoured away formation of 4-2-3-1.
Leeds United v. Nottingham Forest
Football League Championship
Elland Road, Leeds
Saturday, February 6, 2016
7:00am PT / 10:00am ET / 3:00pm BT
Silvestri, Taylor, Cooper, Bellusci, Wootton, Cook, Bridcutt, Diagouraga, Dallas, Doukara, Antenucci
Subs: Peacock-Farrell, Bamba, Coyle, Adeyemi, Murphy, Carayol, Erwin.
Nottingham Forest (projected)
De Vries, Lichaj, Mills, Mancienne, Jokic, Vaughan, Tesche, Gardner, Osborn, Ward, Oliviera
Subs: Evtimov, Cohen, Hobbs, Mendes, Grant, O. Burke, Blackstock
I'm going with a low-scoring draw. 1-1.
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