Tomorrow night: Leeds at Birmingham City. Over three thousand Leeds United fans will be traveling to Birmingham’s St. Andrews on Friday for the second televised game for Garry Monk and company in less than a week, but Monk will be watching from the stands after his suspension for the Wagner incident at Huddersfield.
Perhaps in an indication of how each team’s season is going, Leeds were given an extra 500 tickets after selling out their original allocation of 2800. Meanwhile, 14th place Birmingham have reduced the price for home fans by 50% to help boost sales.
These two clubs last met in August 2016 at Elland Road, Leeds United’s first home game of the campaign. On that occasion, the charitable offerings came from Sol Bamba’s defensive frailties with the Whites registering only three shots in a game that ended 1-2 to the Blues of City.
United have clearly turned a corner since then and strengthened the back line with Pontus Jansson (amongst other moves). Supporters can expect a great deal more than 3 shots at goal too: Leeds currently average 11.5 shots per game.
Despite a Birmingham victory last Friday in the Midlands Derby against Wolverhampton Wanderers, City are currently floundering in 14th behind the likes of Brentford, Cardiff and Derby. United are looking at finishing in the top 6.
From the looks of it, Leeds need around 4 more victories to secure that play-off spot. However, Garry Monk admits that while Birmingham’s managerial change hasn’t gone smoothly, “The Championship is so competitive, nothing is guaranteed at this stage” and “We need to go there and respect them, St. Andrews is a tough place to visit.”
For this game, complacency is not an option.
Birmingham’s new Manager, Gianfranco Zola, who replaced Gary Rowett in December, will be without Jacques Maghoma, captain Michael Morrison and Clayton Donaldson. He does however welcome back Lukas Jutkiewicz and Jonathan Grounds.
Leeds hope to welcome back Charlie Taylor to the squad but will still remain without Lewie Coyle who is joined in the sick bay by young prospect Tyler Denton.
@GarryMonk "Charlie Taylor has had more training and stepped it up, luckily for us he is naturally fit, so he will be in contention"— Leeds United (@LUFC) March 1, 2017
Garry Monk himself will of course be absent from the dugout as he serves a one game touch line ban for the altercation with Huddersfield Town Manager David Wagner.
What we need to do to win
As indicated, this will be a tough game: Birmingham are a hard working side and will be looking to force United into mistakes. The back line must remain focused and our midfield must match the industry of Birmingham’s.
The Blues will be buoyant after their win against Wolves and we must not allow them to grow in confidence during the game. Get the ball to Chris Wood as early as possible to unsettle some blue nerves. If we can get that first goal, I cannot see Birmingham coming from behind to win it. Getting the first goal is therefore vital.
Leeds United player to watch
Chris Wood is on fire at the moment. He’s in the form of his life notching up a career best tally for a season to date with his goal against Sheffield. This has placed him as the Championship’s joint top scorer with Newcastle United’s Dwight Gayle. And the goals are just getting better and better. He’s yet to score with his left foot this season so maybe Friday is the day... or something like this would do.
Birmingham City player to watch
Che Adams nailed the role of hard-working lone striker in the Blues’ last outing vs. Wolves. He will surely be in Zola’s plans Friday evening as the City faithful hope for a repeat performance on the home stage.
From 48 games at Birmingham, Leeds have only won on 8 occasions, Birmingham victors 27 times, and 13 matches drawn. That’s a strong home advantage.
Leeds United’s last five games read W2, L2 and D1
Birmingham City has gone W2, L3, and D0.
Birmingham City vs. Leeds United
EFL Championship fixture
St. Andrews, Birmingham
Sky Sports 1, beIN Sports, LUTV, BBC Radio Leeds, International Listings
Friday, March 3rd, 2017
11:45am PT / 2:45pm ET / 7:45pm BT
Leeds United’s predicted starting XI
Green, Ayling, Bartley, Jansson, Berardi, O’Kane, Bridcutt, Sacko, Hernandez, Doukara, Wood
Birmingham City’s predicted starting XI
Kuszczak, Cogley, Robinson, Nsue, Davis, Tesche, Kieftenbeld, Keita, Gardner, Jutkiewicz, Adams
I’m going all out for a Leeds win... just as the team should be. Confidence is high, momentum is rolling and we can almost smell the play offs. 2-0 Leeds.