Date: 23 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 Hull City 21W 11D 14L
Leeds United look to get back into the playoff positions for the first time in weeks as they take on Hull City at Elland Road on Saturday afternoon. After a extremely good start to the season, that even saw Leeds top the table in August, Leeds endured a bad spell that they seemed to break out of against local rivals Middlesbrough, and Leeds have slowly climbed back into the playoff discussion. A win will see Leeds go into the top six, as the two teams above them in 5th and 6th place, Sheffield United and Aston Villa, play each other later on Saturday and Leeds only trail both of them by one point.
The return to the Championship has not been kind to Hull, as they find themselves in 19th place, only five points away from the relegation zone and on their second manager of the season after the Leo Slutsky was sacked earlier in the season. Hull nearly beat the odds and avoided the drop last season after Portuguese manager Marco Silva had seemed to sprinkle magic dust on his players after arriving in January, but the club fell just short and have not looked like promotion challengers this season, despite the parachute payments and the budget those should afford the club.
However, as usual, these are the kind of matches that managers dread, as with Christmas around the corner, players will often take these kind of points for granted and look past their opponents, especially when the opponent is visiting their home ground. Thomas Christiansen will have stressed not taking this match for granted, as despite their poor position in the table, Hull has enough talent to be able to create a little havoc in the table, and they would love nothing more than to give their traveling fans an early Christmas present with a victory at Elland Road.
Up front, while he’s been training recently, it doesn’t appear that Pierre-Michel Lasogga will get the start against Hull this weekend. The visit to Burton Albion on Boxing Day, a team that Leeds beat 5-0 at Elland Road earlier in the season, should be a good chance for Lasogga to attempt to earn his spot back in the starting XI. Expect Kemar Roofe to once again start up top for Leeds.
“I’m really happy that people can see how good he is.” Pontus Jansson on being asked his opinion on Pawel Cibicki in the summer and how he always believed Cibicki would come good:https://t.co/kw5HACMobZ pic.twitter.com/DEvKpKL6pR— Phil Hay (@PhilHayYEP) December 19, 2017
The attacking trio behind Roofe will likely remain the same as it did against Norwich City, with Samu Saiz, Pawel Cibicki, and Gjanni Alioski all getting the start. Pablo Hernandez might start instead of Cibicki or Saiz, depending on if Christiansen wants to rotate the squad before the holiday period. Cibicki had another fine match against Norwich City, so it would be difficult to justify dropping him, but stranger things have happened.
In central midfield, expect to see Ronaldo Vieira and Kalvin Phillips to once again get the nod. Eunan O’Kane hasn’t been 100% lately, and even if he’s fit, Vieira and Phillips have seemed to formed an effective partnership in the middle of the pitch. O’Kane might get the start with Phillips if Christiansen wants to rotate his central midfield a little bit, but beyond that, don’t expect many changes.
Gaetano Berardi on playing at left-back: "It is not my normal position, but, like every year, I try to do my best. I know this team probably needs a better player than me, but I just want to play and do my best every Saturday."— LUFCDATA (@LUFCDATA) December 20, 2017
Absolutely love him. #LUFC pic.twitter.com/BAwGyAtyw2
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, don’t expect very many changes in the defence either. Pontus Jansson and Liam Cooper have been solid partners in central defence and Luke Ayling has been better after getting caught out a few times during the run of poor form that Leeds endured earlier in the season. Mathew Pennington has made a few substitute appearances in the past weeks, and perhaps he’s due a start in the side, but I would be surprised to see him come into the side against Hull tomorrow. Gaetano Berardi said earlier in the week that Leeds need a better left back than him to compete for the playoffs, and while it’s a decent sentiment from the right back played out of position this season, it’s not necessarily what you’d like to see from one of your key players, even if it is pretty much accurate. He’ll probably start against Hull anyway, but Vurnon Anita might make an appearance some time during the holiday season.
Felix Wiedwald might have panicked a wee bit when the news broke that Leeds had signed a new goalkeeper yesterday, but it was a youth team player on his first professional contract, so he doesn’t have too much to worry about right? All jokes aside, Wiedwald is currently the established number one keeper at the club, even if he will raise the blood pressure of the fans in attendance when a cross comes into the box or at set pieces.
This has all the hallmarks of a “trap game” that could easily go south for the club, and wouldn’t it be just like Leeds to drop points against Hull when the club has a chance to get back into the playoff spots? However, I have faith that Christiansen will get his troops ready for the match, and while it might be closer than it should be, I expect Leeds to dispatch Hull 3-1.
Leeds United: (4-2-3-1) Wiedwald; Ayling, Jansson, Cooper, Berardi; Phillips, Vieira; Alioski, Saiz, Cibicki; Roofe
Hull City: (4-2-3-1) McGregor; Clark, Dawson, Mazuch, Tomori; Meyler, Larsson; Groslcki, Irvine, Alna; Campbell