Leeds United play Sheffield United for the first time in years, in a Yorkshire derby that has all the hall-marks of a “must win” match. Both teams are in the top four, both teams are gunning for promotion, and it’s even in front of a national TV audience and streaming world-wide. But is the match really a “must win?”
Christiansen in no doubt that tomorrow is a key game. “If we lose we are seven points behind Sheffield United. At this stage it’s too much.”— Phil Hay (@PhilHayYEP) October 26, 2017
It’s an all-too common theme in modern football coverage, the “must win” match. It’s easy to fall into the hype that broadcasters and media people apply to every single televised match. Matches in September or August are billed as “critical” even if the league is just getting started. The reaction to an opening day loss is usually too overboard, just as the reaction to an opening day win can be too great. Sunderland, for example, had five points after three matches. They’ve gotten a grand total of four in the following 10 matches, leaving them in 23rd place in the table. That win against Norwich City in the second week in the season? Sunderland’s only win this season, whereas Norwich has rebounded and is now in 6th place with 22 points.
While tomorrow night’s match is no doubt a key match, it is still just one of 46 league matches this season for Leeds. While Leeds do need points to stay near the top of the table, Leeds lost three matches in a row and are still in the top six. From a “points” standpoint, dropping points against Sheffield United is really no different than dropping them against Reading FC or Brentford.
However, it’s still a Yorkshire derby. Sheffield United are flying high once again, and taking down one of your neighbours down a peg or two is still important. And after the absolute disaster that was the Sheffield Wednesday loss, it is important for the fans and the team to come out and play well against the red and white half of Sheffield. So while intellectually, it’s not a “must-win” match, it’s vitally important for the club to bang out a result against Sheffield United.