Date: 14 October 2017
Time: 15.00 BST, 10.00 EDT
Venue: Elland Road
Radio: BBC Radio Leeds (not available online)
Streaming: WatchESPN.com in the United States, check local EFL rights holder for coverage.
All-time Record: Leeds United v Reading 9W 8D 7L
Leeds United, after climbing on top of the table and doing so with style and grace, came falling back to earth the last two matches in the Championship, losing on the road to Cardiff City and then in a Yorkshire derby against Sheffield Wednesday. In both matches, Leeds looked poor for extended periods of time, but unlike in the Birmingham City or Fulham matches, were unable to see off the opposition’s attack and do enough to win.
The international break, usually the bane of the Leeds United existence, could not have come at a better time for the club. Pontus Jansson, arguably the heart and soul of the team, came off injured against Sheffield Wednesday and Felix Wiedwald, the new goalkeeper, seemed to lose his ability to keep against Wednesday as well.
Christiansen confident that Leeds will settle themselves with a win this weekend. Says they spoke at length the morning about recent results— Phil Hay (@PhilHayYEP) October 12, 2017
Thomas Christiansen seemed upbeat about the team’s chances against Reading this week during his midweek press conference, and with the form that his opposition has been in recently, it’s no wonder. Reading sit on 9 points and in 20th place in the table, a far cry from the play-off places they were in for much of last year. While the defence has allowed a 12 goals this season, the club has the the forth worst offence in the Championship, scoring a mere nine goals, with only Burton Albion, Bolton Wanderers, and Birmingham City scoring less. Jaap Stam is feeling a little bit of the heat given the expectations going into the season, but the unexpected run to Wembley last season will surely buy the Former Lazio and Manchester United defender some time.
If there is one area that Christiansen would have needed to spend time dealing with during the international break, it would have to be the transition of the ball from the goalkeeper up the pitch. Wiedwald worked so well in the early part of the season in part because he was able to distribute the ball from the back with the ball at his feet, allowing the fullbacks and the wingers to start the attack on the edge. Cardiff and Wednesday both applied a high-press against Leeds, and the team looked unable to deal with the pressure effectively. If Leeds are going to continue their hot start to the season, this area needs to be addressed.
While Wiedwald looked poor against Wednesday and Cardiff, the big German is in no real danger of being dropped. The club allowed Rob Green and Marco Silvestri, the previous two starters, to leave this summer and brought back Andy Lonergan to be the backup. For better or worse, Wiedwald will be the starter for the rest of the season unless he suffers a massive loss of form, is injured, or the club moves for a new player during the January transfer window. If rumours start popping up linking Leeds with new keepers, then maybe Wiedwald should get worried, but until then he’s the man.
In defence, Pontus Jansson has been ruled fit again after taking a knock against Wednesday and sitting out the match against Cardiff. Christiansen has said that he’s fit, so expect him to start in central defence against Reading. Liam Cooper got a call-up to the Scotland squad during this international break, but he didn’t appear in any of the matches. His horror show against Cardiff may have turned some off of the captain, but he was absolutely lights-out for much of the season. Against Reading, look for him to start along side Jansson, although there is still a good chance that Matthew Pennington could start as well. At right-back, look for Luke Ayling to once again start. He has been the most consistent performer in the defence all season, if not the squad. At left back? Does it matter? Vurnon Anita has looked overrun on a number of occasions this season, but Gaetano Berardi has looked off the pace as well. The only sure thing is that Cameron Borthwick-Jackson will not be the starter, and that’s probably a good thing.
Re: O'Kane's cracked ribs - TC joked that Martin O'Neill "is a doctor now." Said O'Kane is fine. #lufc— Phil Hay (@PhilHayYEP) October 12, 2017
Central midfield has been extremely consistent this year, with Kalvin Phillips pairing Eunan O’Kane in almost every league match this season. Christiansen dismissed Martin O’Neill’s statement that Eunan O’Kane had cracked ribs, but that explanation makes more sense than the alternative; that O’Kane simply forgot how to play football in the match against Wednesday before the break. Unless Thomas Christiansen is keeping something close to the vest, and given his track record, that is extremely likely, look for O’Kane to partner Kalvin Phillips in the middle. Just for the record, I think that Ronaldo Vieira should absolutely get this start, but I’m not the one picking the team.
Up front, Pierre-Michel Lasogga, fresh off winning the September Player of the Month award, will almost certainly get the start. The Hamburger SV loanee has been fantastic since arriving late in the summer transfer window, and even the birth of his child can’t keep him off the pitch, although it should have. Jay-Roy Grot is too green to rely on at this point, and the only other player that would have a shot is Kemar Roofe, but Christiansen appears to prefer Roofe as a winger in the league.
Samu Saiz will almost certainly get the start as the attacking midfielder, with him being the best attacking player for Leeds so far this season. Pablo Hernandez has been the usual starter on the left wing, with his position in the middle of the pitch taken over by Saiz. Gjanni Alioski has played much of the season on the right wing, but with him playing twice for Macedonia during the break, he might be given a rest. Look for to Kemar Roofe play on the wing instead. Hadi Sacko might be given a chance on the bench, but him starting the match would be surprising.
Leeds 3-0 over Reading. If Leeds United are to put the bad taste of the Cardiff and Sheffield Wednesday matches out of their mouths, a win against a reeling Reading team would be the best way to accomplish that. The club, along with the fans, have turned Elland Road into a fortress this season, meaning that it should be intimidating for any team to show up and hope to grab any points this season. Look for Leeds to get after Reading early, and the defence have a bounce-back match and keep a clean sheet.
Leeds United (4-2-3-1) Wiedwald; Ayling, Jansson, Cooper, Berardi; Phillips, O’Kane; Hernandez, Saiz, Roofe; Lasogga.
Reading: (4-3-3) Mannone; Gunter, McShane, Moore, Blackett; Bacuna, van den Berg, Kelly; Aluko, Beerens, McCleary.