Date: 22 Novemeber 2017
Time: 19.45 GMT, 2:45 PM EST
Venue: Molineux, Waterloo Road, Wolverhampton, WV1 4QR
Radio: BBC Radio Leeds (not available online)
All-time Record: Leeds United v Wolverhampton 42W 22D 31L
Leeds travel to Wolverhampton after a vital win for the Yorkshire side, as they had not only stopped the three game losing streak that the team was on but also put one past their old manager, Garry Monk, who left Leeds last May to join up with relegated Middlesbrough. Despite the many comments about Monk leaving because of a “lack of faith” from the new Leeds owner, Andrea Radrizzani, Monk was (rightfully) greeted as a snake who ditched Leeds for the parachute payments of Boro.
Wolverhampton will pose a much stronger test for Leeds. After being stuck at the wrong end of the table for much of last season, Wolverhampton turned to Portuguese manager Nuno Espírito Santo and brought in a number of new players into the club, including loanees Diogo Jota (from Atlético Madrid), Alfred N'Diaye (from Villarreal), and Léo Bonatini (from Al-Hilal). The club also brought in Rúben Neves from FC Porto and Roderick Miranda from Portugal’s Rio Ave. Much like Leeds, many of their moves were panned as the players were not “proven” in the championship, but the team has been on a tear recently, putting any fears of the players not “adjusting” to the England to rest.
Leeds will have to be on the top of their game to be able to duplicate their performance against Boro for their trip to the West Midlands. Wolverhampton are top of the league, and barring a collapse, look to try and seal an automatic promotion back to the Premier League after being relegated before the 2012-13 season. Leeds haven’t won two matches in a row since September, and haven’t won back-to-back league matches since beating Birmingham City and Burton Albion at home.
Worth highlighting the positioning of the large majority of blocks Leeds made vs. Middlesbrough. Defensive work in wide areas was very impressive. They worked tirelessly to make things difficult for Boro, ensuring they didn't get in behind the lines & exploit the channels. #LUFC pic.twitter.com/6eHyNmwoEp— Chris Taylor (@LUFCDATA) November 20, 2017
We kept this going at the start of the season, but as I'm sure you know, tirelessly defending can't be maintained game after game. Maybe the team needs a bit more rotation every 3/4 games? EO, KP, RV, LA and VA to name a few have all looked good & then dead on their feet #mot https://t.co/jfe6NRfRca— Paul Hewson (@MonkeyWauly) November 21, 2017
Leeds looked like the Leeds of August and September for much of the Boro match on Sunday, and a lot of that had to do with the high-press and movement of Kemar Roofe and the attacking trio behind him. Too often in the past few matches the team has looked rather static up front, allowing the opposition to cut off the supply to the forward and dominate possession, leaving the Leeds defenders exposed. Hopefully the time away during the international break has allowed the players to rest up for the grind of the rest of the season.
Up top, with the news that Pierre-Michel Lasogga is apparently injured, that Caleb Ekuban kind of let slip out during the press conference yesterday, it really is Kemar Roofe’s position now. The team looked great, with Roofe tracking back, moving into space, drawing defenders out of position, and doing brilliant inter-play with Samu Saiz, Pablo Hernandez, and Gjanni Alioski. Roofe’s work on the Alioski goal against Boro was top notch, and if he shows more of that against Wolves, Leeds stands a chance.
As for the attacking midfielder and wingers, expect to see Samu Saiz and Gjanni Alioski retain their places no matter what. The only change that might be made would be Stuart Dallas for Pablo Hernandez, as if any change that possibly be justified after the Boro match would be to get Dallas on, especially after his performances for Northern Ireland during the international break.
In central midfield, Kalvin Phillips and Ronaldo Vieira should get another chance to pair in the middle of the park. Eunan O’Kane doesn’t have the bite that Vieira or Phillips has in the tackle, although his passing is better, however with Saiz and the other attacking midfielders having enough creativity to go around, O’Kane can be left on the bench, especially against a difficult side like Wolverhampton.
In defence, expect to see an unchanged back four for Leeds. Captain Liam Cooper and Pontus Jansson clicked well last match, and the squad needs to have some consistency in the central defence partnership for the team to defend well. Luke Ayling will once again get the start on the right, and Gaetano Berardi looks to start at left-back as well. Berardi hasn’t been great recently, but he’s doing a passable job at left-back. Hopefully a new left-back will be brought into the side in January, if for no other reason that Berardi can finally be used to spell Ayling on the right.
As for the keeper position, Andy Lonergan bounced back after his poor performance against Brentford to play pretty decently against Boro. He was denied a clean sheet after some rather creative refereeing to award a penalty to Boro, but otherwise Lonergan did enough to keep the ball out of the net. A pretty decent performance, but Lonergan can’t play out of the back like Wiedwald can, so perhaps a new keeper might be in the cards in January.
I’m feeling optimistic, if for no other reason than I got the score right against the Boro match, a 2-1 win for Leeds. I have also predicted a Leeds win every match this season, so while I’m hopeful that Leeds might be able to get a result away from home, I also thought the team would be able to do well against Cardiff on a short week. This match has well-fought draw written all over it, as Leeds will be looking to snatch a point on the road against the league leaders, and Wolves will be looking to solidify their position on top of the table, as promotion rivals Sheffield United lost a thriller to Fulham yesterday. I’m going for a 1-1 draw.
Leeds United: (4-2-3-1) Lonergan; Ayling, Cooper, Jansson, Berardi; Phillips, Vieira; Dallas, Saiz, Alioski; Roofe
Wolverhampton: (3-4-3) Ruddy; Coady, Bennett, Boly; Douglas, N’Diaye, Neves, Doherty; Jota, Bonatini, Cavaleiro