Date: 16 December 2017
Time: 15.00 GMT, 10.00 EST
Venue: Elland Road
Radio: BBC Radio Leeds (not available online)
Streaming: LUTV outside the UK and Ireland
All-time Record: Leeds United v Norwich City 21W 16D 18L
Leeds United look to continue their good run of form by taking on an underachieving Norwich City side that sits in 16th place in the able, but only six points behind Leeds, who are in 7th place, four points behind Sheffield United for the final playoff place.
Norwich City were one of the favorites to make an immediate return to the Premier League last year, but despite their strong start to the season, they drifted down in the table and ultimately did not come close to making the playoffs. And this season, despite some promise, the team has once again underachieved, with the threat of “challenges” in the economics of the club from Chairman Ed Balls if the team fails to gain promotion this season.
The most memorable match from last season for Leeds against Norwich City was the EFL Cup match that went to penalties. Ronaldo Vieira kicked the winning penalty kick that night, and while he’s likely to start, the match won’t be decided on penalties.
Leeds United are coming off of a good win in London against Queens Park Rangers last week. The club looked very good for long stretches of the match, especially in the second half, and the appearance of Pawel Cibicki was a surprise after Caleb Ekuban had to leave with what appeared to be a recurrence of the injury that held him out for weeks. Equally surprising was the performance of Cibicki, has he shined on the right wing, providing an inch-perfect cross for Roofe’s second goal of the day.
Leeds will be hoping for another win to propel them up the table and closer to a playoff position heading into the holiday fixtures and some matches that most observers would expect them to pick up points in. And while Norwich isn’t looking like a club that will challenge for promotion, they still have talent in the squad and they also beat Sheffield Wednesday 3-1 last week.
Up front, Kemar Roofe has to keep his place in the side, despite the presence of Pierre-Michel Lasogga. A picture of Lasogga training was posted by the club during the week, and while he still might be the best finisher at the club, the club has played well in his absence. Of course, that might have nothing to do with Lasogga, but managers that value their position in a team don’t bench strikers who score hat-tricks, no matter the pedigree of the player coming back from injury.
Behind the lone striker, unless a meteor strikes the earth, Samu Saiz will start at the “number 10” position. He’s been the best player for much of the season for the club, and despite taking a bit of a poor shot when he could have passed against Queens Park Rangers, he’s still the most creative and most dangerous player for Leeds.
On the wings, Gjanni Alioski has come into his own after a sometimes shaky start to his season, scoring in four straight games before the QPR match, where he “only” assisted on one of the goals. He’ll start at one of the wing positions, dependent on who else is good to go. Cibicki turned many heads last week, so if Pablo Hernandez can’t go, look for Cibicki to get a start at right wing. If Hernandez can go, Hernandez will start on the left wing and Alioski will start on the right.
In central midfield, Kalvin Phillips and Ronaldo Vieira will again likely get the start. Vieira was brilliant against Norwich City last year in the EFL Cup, and he’s been the most consistent midfielder since coming on as a starter. Eunan O’Kane might be fully fit, but even if he is, he’ll likely not get the start, but look for him to be a second half replacement for Vieira or Phillips.
On defence, again, expect no changes. Gaetano Berardi will start at left back, Pontus Jansson and Liam Cooper in the middle, and Luke Ayling at right back. At some point you’d like to think that Ayling could get a match off, but this likely won’t be the match that will see Ayling rotated out. It’s unfortunate that Matthew Pennington hasn’t gotten more of a look, but with the way that Cooper and Jansson have been playing together, you would expect the captain to keep his place in the side.
Felix Wiedwald did a bad, bad thing against QPR, but he made a brilliant save after his boneheaded mistake which made up for his error, at least somewhat. He’s the best keeper for the club right now, for better or worse, and so he should get the start pretty much no matter what. Andy Lonergan is a decent back-up at this point in his career, and so it would be surprising to see him start again.
Leeds seem to have put their bad run of form fully behind them, winning against Middlesbrough, Barnsley FC, and QPR in recent weeks and a good draw against Aston Villa thrown in as well. And while Norwich might seem dangerous, Leeds should have the depth to put Norwich away, although keeping a clean sheet might be too tall of a task for the club. 3-1 Leeds United.
Leeds United: (4-2-3-1) Wiedwald; Ayling, Cooper, Jansson, Berardi; Vieira, Phillips; Alioski, Saiz, Cibicki; Roofe
Norwich City: (4-2-3-1) Gunn; Pinto, Klose, Hanley, Stiepermann; Reed, Vrancic; Murphy, Maddison, Hoolahan; Oliviera