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Match Preview: Garry Monk returns to Elland Road with Middlesbrough to face Leeds United

How did that picture of a snake get there

Deadly Reptiles Go On Show At Children's Zoo Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images

Match: Leeds United v Middlesbrough

Date: 19 Novemeber 2017

Time: 13.15 GMT, 8.15 EST

Venue: Elland Road

Television: Sky Sports

Radio: BBC Radio Leeds (not available online)

Streaming: WatchESPN.com in the United States, check your local EFL rights holder for more information. We will also post a “How To Watch” post about two hours before the match as well.

All-time Record: Leeds United v Middlesbrough 37W 27D 31L

Leeds United face off against their old manager Garry Monk, who last year seemed to have the playoffs wrapped up until a late season slide that condemned the team to an unthinkable miss. And while the playoff miss was painful, it was still the best finish Leeds have had in years. So it was a surprise to see Monk bolt for the Riverside Stadium and the parachute payments at Middlesbrough. Of course, Leeds fans were upset, and the changing story from Monk as to why he left has only meant that he will get an even more negative reaction from the fans on Sunday.

And for a while, it seemed that Monk had made a mistake, as Leeds were flying high at the beginning part of the season, on top of the league and lots of stories were written about how “Leeds are back.” Only a few weeks later, however, and those stories have made way for stories about “what’s going wrong at Leeds” after seven defeats in nine games.

To add to the ill-feelings that will be felt on Sunday towards Garry Monk, the club has decided to feature a “visual display” with cards and flags provided by the club. This set off a bit of a tiff on social media, with both sides of the debate feeling that the other side is being unreasonable. Either way, some cards are going to be passed out on Sunday, so if you’re their, at least hold them up, no matter if you think that it all feels a bit tinpot.

As for the actual squad that will take the pitch against Middlesbrough, this might be the most difficult lineup to predict all year. The team needs a change or two after the poor run of results, and if you polled 10 or 15 fans, you might end up with 10 or 15 different answers. Thomas Christiansen has said that he might consider playing two strikers up top, although he hasn’t done so at all so far this season, and to be honest, TC hasn’t varied very much from a 4-2-3-1 all season.

Up front, Pierre-Michel Lasogga seems to be the starter, but Kemar Roofe has looked good the few chances that he has gotten as the lone striker this season. Roofe scored against Cardiff, in what was seriously the only good part of the match for Leeds on the night. Roofe also scored against Nottingham Forest as the lone striker, and Leeds looked much, much better against Brentford after Roofe was played as the striker up front.

While it seems like Christiansen won’t start Roofe as the lone striker while Lasogga is fit, for me it is the right choice. Lasogga will likely start and Roofe might start on the wing, but it seems a bit silly to keep Roofe out of his natural position as a striker. He scored buckets of goals for Oxford United playing as a striker, but he’s rarely gotten a chance to play as a striker for Leeds, despite scoring a number of goals for the club when he’s gotten the chance. I’d start him, but I’m not the manager. Expect to see Lasogga start up front, but man, it would be really sweet to see Roofe score a winner against Monk’s Boro.

In the attacking midfield, Stuart Dallas has to start, right? He’s been the best player for Leeds to not get a chance to be a regular starter, and even if the club suffers at set pieces with Pablo Hernandez not playing, Dallas has to get into the match. He’s scored when given the chance, and something has got to change if the club is to start winning again. Dallas has played at left-back before, and maybe that’s the change that is needed, but he should start on one of the wings.

As for the other wing, if Roofe doesn’t start as a the striker, he should start on the right. Gjanni Alioski has been great for Leeds, but Alioski usually sits after international breaks, and Roofe can bang in goals more than Alioski can, and Leeds needs goals right now. If Roofe does start up front, then I would like to see Alioski on the right, as he provides defensive cover that the other wingers don’t provide.

Samu Saiz has been the lone bright spot far too many times this season, and so there is no reason that he shouldn’t start in the number 10 role. In the beginning of the season, it was a bit unthinkable that Hernandez would be replaced by Saiz, but now it doesn’t seem so silly. Saiz has been the best player for Leeds, so much so that Leeds might worry about him being poached by a desperate Premier League club with TV money burning a hole in its pocket.

In the midfield, Kalvin Phillips is available after serving his suspension for yellow card accumulation, but he needs to sit, as Ronaldo Vieira and Eunan O’Kane should start. TC seems to be Phillips’ biggest fan, but Vieira is the best defensive midfielder at the club right now, and should get the start alongside O’Kane, who is still the best passer out of midfield at the club right now.

On defence, Leeds will likely go with Luke Ayling at right back, with Matthew Pennington and Pontus Jansson in the middle, and Gaetano Berardi at left back. Berardi isn’t the best left back in the world, but he’s still the best option at this point. Pennington has shown some growing pains, but at some point if everyone is fit, TC needs to pick his central defence pair and stick with them and let them figure out how to play with each other. Liam Cooper might be the captain, but his play as come back to earth after looking like a changed man at the start of the season.

At keeper, who starts?

Bailey Peacock-Farrell? That Polish kid the club signed that was released by Feyenoord? Okay, so it will probably be one of either Andy Lonergan or Felix Wiedwald, although if Wiedwald can get dropped after his performance against Sheffield Wednesday, then Lonergan should be dropped after his performance against Brentford. Felix the cat it is, but if he still looks shaky, Leeds might need to go shopping in January. It’s worth remembering that Wiedwald looked good while Leeds were winning all those matches at the beginning of the season, so maybe bringing him back isn’t the worst idea in the world, even if he looked questionable against Leicester City.

Predicted Score:

If Garry Monk coming back with his new team doesn’t get this squad and this crowd fired up, I don’t know what will. The whole debacle of losing at home to Derby County coupled with the terrible match against Brentford has the whole club on edge, and in desperate need of a win. I’ll be optimistic and say Leeds pulls out a 2-1 win over Boro.

Predicted Lineups:

Leeds United: (4-2-3-1) Wiedwald; Ayling, Pennington, Jansson, Berardi; O’Kane, Vieira; Dallas, Saiz, Roofe; Lasogga

Middlesbrough: (4-2-3-1) Randolph; Christie, Gibson, Ayala, Fabio; Leadbitter, Howson; Tavernier, Braithwaite, Downing; Assombalonga