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Leeds United vs. Derby County preview: Cull the Rams’ momentum, take three points on Friday night

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The Whites look to extend their unbeaten run to six in a row against the always difficult Derby County.

Derby County v Nottingham Forest - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

Tomorrow night, Leeds United will host Derby County at Elland Road for a chance to further cement a playoff place. A win could see the Whites rise to 3rd in the table, providing the other results go our way between now and Saturday evening. A win would also increase the gap between Leeds and Derby to 8 points, which would be an important factor as we approach the business end of the season. Derby finds themselves sitting just outside the playoff spots with 40 points, and we can’t afford to let them sneak in at our expense.

For me, a Leeds win comes down to these three factors:

Don’t Give Ince an Inch

In my opinion, Thomas Ince is the biggest threat for Derby tomorrow night. He has been in good form this season, scoring 8 league goals. With the suspension of Jansson, and with Cooper not at 100% if available at all, Leeds will have to be on the ball and focused not to allow Ince to gain momentum and drive at our defence. If we can keep on top of the winger, we will stand a good chance of winning the game. That might depend on who is playing on our back line most of all.

A better first half performance

We’ve mentioned it a few times over the last few weeks, but Leeds really do need to have a better first half display tomorrow night. The quality Derby possesses will punish us if we are not on our game straight from the kick-off. We were lucky against both Rotherham and Cambridge not to be dead and buried at half-time. Derby are a much better side than those two, as evidenced by their October victory over us at Pride Park, and if we play in the first half of tomorrow night’s game like we have previous in the previous two, we will be made to suffer yet again.

Feed off the Crowd

The players need to feed off what is looking like another sell-out at Elland Road. Monk’s men need to immerse themselves in it - this will be the 12th man they need to carry on this great run. A sell-out crowd can be intimidating to visiting sides at Elland Road, and when Leeds see the Derby players emotionally reacting to the crowd, they need to take advantage of their distraction and take the points.

What we know about Derby

Since the appointment of Steve McClaren in September, Derby have been rejuvenated and have been climbing up the league. McClaren has been able to get the best out of Darren Bent and Thomas Ince, who will need to be at the top of their game if Derby are going to break into the playoff positions. After Derby beat us 1-0 in October, they only lost once in the following 12 games. However, since then, they have struggled for consistency in the league.

Form

Leeds United: W-W-D-W-W

Leeds have been in great form over the last couple of months. The win in the FA Cup meant that Leeds’ last defeat came way back on December 9th against pace-setting Brighton. Since then, Leeds have been on a great run, winning 4 and drawing 1 in their last five.

Derby County: W-L-D-W-D

Derby have also been on a decent run themselves, but they have started to stutter over the last few weeks in the league, and have dropped points on three occasions - losing 1, drawing 2 and winning 2 in their last 5. Their 3-0 loss to Norwich and draws against Wigan and Fulham have kept them out of the playoff spots.

Head-to-Head

In the last ten meetings, Leeds’ record is poor against the Rams. We have only won 2, drawn 2 and lost 6. Last time at Pride Park, Derby picked up the victory with a goal from Johnny Russell settling the game. Leeds will look to return the favor at Elland Road.

WHAT

Leeds United vs. Derby County

EFL Championship fixture

WHERE

Elland Road, Leeds

Sky Sports, beIN Sports, LUTV, BBC Radio Leeds, International Listings

WHEN

Friday, January 13, 2017

11:45am PT / 2:45pm ET / 7:45pm BT

WHO

Leeds United predicted starting XI

Green, Ayling, Bartley, Cooper, Berardi, Bridcutt, Vieira, Sacko, Roofe, Hernández, Wood

Derby County predicted starting XI

Carson, Baird, Keogh, Pearce, Anyaat, Hughes, Johnson, Butterfield, Ince, Bent, Russell

ODDS

Leeds 13/8

Draw 21/10

Derby 9/5

PREDICTION

1-1 draw. Games against Derby have always been tricky fixtures for Leeds and tomorrow night won’t be any different. Leeds will need a better start than in recent games to get anything from this one. I expect the game to play out similar to the Aston Villa games - a tight and cagey 1st half with limited chances and in the 2nd half both teams will be more expressive in their play. They will cancel each other out though and the game will finish even. MOT.