My, how things have changed in just two weeks. Against Brighton on February 29th, Leeds United lost 4-0, relegation was a possibility, and everyone was calling for everyone's heads. Then, March happened. A 2-1 win at home over lowly Bolton and a shocking 2-0 win on the road at Cardiff have lifted the spirits of this mid-table team and its fanbase, and now anything seems possible... well, at least a top ten finish does.
It's with that optimism that Leeds heads into a trap game at Blackburn Rovers. Sitting 16th in the table to Leeds' 15th place spot, both teams have had disappointing seasons, and neither seem to be going up or down. Blackburn similarly had a rough February, losing 5-1 to West Ham to be eliminated from the FA Cup being the low point, but have played well in March, winning against Boro and Birmingham City.
They've also won their last five league games against Leeds, keeping the Whites scoreless in three of those games. They drew the two games before that, so Leeds is winless in seven against the Riversiders. Blackburn has won four games in a row at home, their best streak since 2010. All that to say... the odds are not in Leeds favor. But they weren't at Cardiff either.
Striking options for Leeds?
The performance of Mirco Antenucci over the last two games has been the difference for a formerly-goal-averse Leeds squad. In two starts, the now-trimmed Beardy has scored contributed to all four goals, scoring three of them and assisting on the other, as many as he had in the 24 games previous. His performance has been much better since pairing with Souleymane Doukara up top, so you'd have to think Steve Evans would stick with the 4-4-2 in this game... but you never know.
Mirco's emergence leads to a new problem for Leeds, as Chris Wood looks set to return to the squad soon. Could Leeds really have too many options up top? No, that's taking it a step too far, but if Wood is finally healthy enough to get the start, you can't imagine Evans leaving him out at someone's expense and surely the hot-handed Antenucci won't be the one on the bench. My bet? Wood stays on the bench in this one, and Beardy and the Duke start up top again. Wood likely gets the start next week.
In their last five, Leeds have won 2, drawn 1, and lost 2.
In their last five, Blackburn has won 3 and lost 2. They also have that pesky 4 game winning streak at home Leeds will be looking to snap.
Leeds United player to watch
Marco Silvestri. Dude played out of his mind against Cardiff, with his ten saves the most in any Championship game this season. His clean sheet won him man of the match honors, and rightfully so. Can he repeat that performance on the road at Blackburn?
Blackburn Rovers player to watch
Tony Watt hopes he doesn't. The 22 year old Scottish striker won a call-up to his national squad this week and leads his club team in goals with five. On loan from Charlton Athletic, Watt will be looking to solidify his place in the starting lineup with another big performance at home.
Blackburn Rovers v. Leeds United
Football League Championship
Ewood Park, Blackburn
BBC Radio 5, LUTV
Saturday, March 12, 2016
4:30am PT / 7:30am ET / 12:30pm BT
Silvestri, Taylor, Bellusci, Bamba, Berardi, Diagouraga, Bridcutt, Cook, Mowatt, Doukara, Antenucci
Subs:Grimes, Wootton, Murphy, Dallas, Carayol, Botaka, Wood
Steele, Marshall, Duffy, Hanley, Spurr, Lenihan, Akpan, Gomez, Bennett, Watt, Graham
Subs: Raya, Brown, Ward, Grimes, Evans, Conway, Jackson.
2-1, Leeds. I'm optimistic things have changed direction after the last two wins, hopeful we can keep it up on the road.
It feels weird predicting a win on the road after the season this team has had, but Antenucci has me believing again. Will Leeds win on the road and continue their unbelievable March? Will Blackburn continue their winning streak at home? We'll find out early enough on Saturday to either enjoy the rest of the day or have time to try to forget it. Hoping it's not the latter. Thanks for reading. #MOT.