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Leeds United vs. Sheffield Wednesday preview: 58 to 58, Whites must top their play-off bound rivals

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This is more than a derby: it’s a battle for promotion at Elland Road on Saturday afternoon.

Wigan Athletic v Sheffield Wednesday - Sky Bet Championship
Jordan Rhodes. Of Sheffield Wednesday. Bah.
Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images

A 33,000+ attendance between two Yorkshire rivals, televised, in an important game this... no, not important, crucial. There’s more than just local derby bragging rights at stake on Saturday at Elland Road: this match could actually define our season as play-off hopefuls. With Wednesday literally being our closest opponent in the table (both of us have 58 points after 33 games played), it’s time to step on the gas and put some distance between us and the rest of the field.

It was a different story when the two sides met at Hillsborough back in August. Then, a 2-nil result secured the Whites their first win under Garry Monk’s stewardship. At that time, Leeds were 20th and Wednesday 14th.

Since then, the two sides have clocked up some mileage with United going furthest and this time in the right direction. Leeds have only lost 3 of 15 games at Elland Road since that August meeting. Compare this, to Sheffield who have an indifferent away record so far with 6 wins, 6 draws and 5 losses away in the league, and we have reason to be positive.

Classic encounter

There couldn’t be a more interesting time for these two sides to clash either. Having played an equal number of games and both having 58 points, the Whites just edge Sheffield on goal difference: Leeds have 11 whilst Sheffield have 10. Neither side will wish to settle for a draw. These facts could be all the ingredients we need for a classic encounter.

With the sides evenly poised it could be down to one moment of magic or controversy that decides the result. Let’s travel back in time for a taste of what may come. Check out this footage from a 1-1 draw in 1984 that has names familiar to Whites fans on both sides.

Additions

Having reached the play-off positions, Wednesday, in my book, have taken the right approach in bringing in new attacking options to help their goal difference for the final push. They have brought in Jordan Rhodes for an estimated £10 million and Sam Winnall for an undisclosed fee. A further addition is defender Morgan Fox, also for an undisclosed fee. Callum McManaman joins on loan from West Brom. A better window than Garry Monk had at Elland Road.

This could actually provide their manager, Carlos Carvalhal, with a selection headache. He needs to rest players and cannot accommodate all attacking options. Choosing the wrong option could slide the balance in our favour.

Leeds had 2 deadline day loan signings in the shape of winger Modou Barrow (Swansea) and winger Alfonso Pedraza (Villarreal). Both are still going through the bedding-in process and have yet to play a full 90 minutes.

Sick bay

Charlie Taylor has trained this week but is still not ready, Lewie Coyle will also miss out with an ankle injury.

For Wednesday, Tom Lees, Gary Hooper and Morgan Fox all face late fitness tests.

What we need to do to win

In Forestieri, Hooper, Winnall and Rhodes, Sheffield Wednesday have a very formidable forward line up. In Bannan and on loan Callum McManaman, their midfield isn’t bad either. Looks like their best form of defence will be attack. We need to stop their midfield getting anything going and play solid possession football. The mantra of “they can’t score without the ball” is often heard on youth training pitches and on this occasion could be true.

Our back four need to be up to the task and alert to the counter. I would favour Roofe over Doukara to play a wider game and Sacko over Vieira to press Wednesday at any given opportunity.

The chasing pack

Although Fulham have a tricky tie away at resurgent Cardiff, they should be favourites and could potentially narrow the gap between 7th and 6th placed teams to just 3 points. Norwich meanwhile are facing their own tricky Derby encounter at home to Ipswich.

Form

From their last five, Leeds stats read W2, L1, D2.

Sheffield Wednesday come into this game after a 1-2 home defeat to Brentford. Their stats still read an impressive W4, L1, D0.

Head-to-Head

From 44 games, at Elland Road, Leeds have won 22 with 14 draws and Sheffield taking the honours only 8 times.


WHAT

Leeds United vs. Sheffield Wednesday

EFL Championship fixture

WHERE

Elland Road, Leeds

Sky Sports 1, LUTV, BBC Radio Leeds, International Listings

WHEN

Saturday, February 25th, 2017

4:30am PT / 7:30am ET / 12:30pm BT

WHO

Leeds United’s predicted starting XI

Green, Ayling, Bartley, Jansson, Berardi, O’Kane, Bridcutt, Sacko, Hernandez, Roofe, Wood

Sheffield Wednesday’s predicted starting XI

Westwood, Palmer, Loovens, Sasso, Reach, Wallace, Hutchinson, Abdi, Bannan, Rhodes, Forestieri

ODDS

Leeds 6/4

Draw 21/10

Sheffield 2/1

PREDICTION

These are really getting tougher to call. All things considered, a derby game and what’s at stake, anything could happen. I don’t mind how we win just as long as we do... but my head is again saying draw. 2-2.