Full steam ahead.
That just about sums up the feeling of Garry Monk and this Leeds side at the moment after they have managed to win five of their last six matches.
Via ☀️ Dream Team #DontBuyTheSun #LUFC pic.twitter.com/lwMUa3Ljgl— #WALMOT (@WALMOT333) January 20, 2017
Things are certainly looking on the up.
But to be fair, there is no such thing a certain win in the Championship.
As James explained in the match preview published earlier this week, tenth place Barnsley has not had the best of 2017’s. Coming off losses to Fulham, League-Two Blackpool in the FA Cup, plus add the fact that key players are missing and you will have a team that is looking for something to smile about.
Teams on a down trend can be one of two things: Dangerous due to the fact they tend to play desperate, or ready to self-implode.
Currently, Leeds have the side and the swagger to capitalize on Barnsley mistakes.
The question as always is: who can Monk depend on to plug the holes and score the goals?
1. Luke Ayling
Ayling has been tasked with filling in for the beloved Pontus Jansson, which is no easy task. But if there was a stretch of games to miss Jansson, this was as good as any.
Ayling has been a consistent presence in the back four alongside the superb Kyle Bartley.
He's such a tease, @lukeayling_8 #LUFC pic.twitter.com/eqpDqgv4kP— Svend Karlsen (@svendleeds) January 13, 2017
Fans sometimes don’t know what they are going to get with Ayling, but Monk will expect him to keep the broken Barnsley attack at bay Saturday evening.
Then we can all put our magic hats back on.
On the other side:
With the departure of striker Sam Winnall, Adam Armstrong will be expected to pick up the goal scoring responsibilities for the Tykes.
Armstrong is not a strong threat in the air, so Bartley should be able to keep the aerial threat of Barnsley grounded with Ayling at his side. But this is an attack threat that can make things happen on the ground, so the Leeds defense will have to track Armstrong and make sure they run him into non-danger areas.
2. Liam Bridcutt
Bridcutt is one of the players that will be critical to Leeds if they are to make a run for automatic promotion, and he could be the Man of the Match tonight.
Monk knows that Bridcutt brings a quality in the midfield that allows him to be a danger with his passing on offense and tackling on defense. A multi-dimensional weapon, Bridcutt will be the engine in this Leeds lineup alongside Pablo Hernandez. Look for him to have a dominant performance against a disoriented Barnsley side.
Liam Bridcutt won SIX tackles vs. Derby, no @SkyBetChamp player managed more this weekend.— LUFCDATA (@LUFCDATA) January 14, 2017
Midfield enforcer. #LUFC #MOT pic.twitter.com/5ulzc6x1mj
On the other side:
Josh Scowen is a potential difference maker for Barnsley with his quality in the midfield.
Quality passing, accurate crosses, and a physical presence in defense are all attributes that Scowen brings to the table. He will be one of the few players that cause the Leeds midfield problems as they try to string together quality attacks.
3. Souleymane Doukara
Doukara. One of the most difficult players to predict, both for fans and managers alike.
When Chris Wood was out, many hoped that Doukara would be able to effectively fill his goal scoring boots. But that was not the case, he might have been an engine at times, but he rarely scored, and inconsistent play plagues his performances. Doukara had a great outing against Derby, but then again, who didn’t for Leeds?
Souleymane Doukara vs. Derby:— LUFCDATA (@LUFCDATA) January 14, 2017
88% pass accuracy
2 chances created
Superb display . #LUFC #MOT pic.twitter.com/2cRDgoIeLG
Attacking quality is what he will need to bring from the flank tonight. Monk will order him to crash into the box as much as possible to create chances for their main finisher, Chris Wood.
On the other side:
Marc Roberts will be the main defensive name that Monk will be focusing on.
Roberts can be compared to Bartley when it comes to his dual-threat capabilities. He can score a goal. He can prevent a goal. But discipline is an issue, so Monk will hope that his quicker players can make runs at Roberts to see if they can cause discipline issues. With three yellows and one red so far this season, his temper could prove to be a problem for Roberts tonight.
Monk knows that this run of games (EIGHT in the next four weeks) will be the core of an automatic promotion push. A stumble can cause uncertainty in more difficult matches ahead. Wins can build the confidence to make us unstoppable.
Let’s continue to be unstoppable Whites. MOT.
You have voted that LEEDS UNITED have the best fans across England!— FL92 Polls & Battles (@PollsFL92) January 20, 2017