Match: Leeds United v Preston North End
Date: 12 August 2017
Time: 15.00 BST, 10.00 EDT
Venue: Elland Road
Radio: BBC Radio Leeds, not available online, audio commentary from LUTV
Streaming: LUTV for £5 for overseas fans.
All-time Record: Leeds v Preston North End 20 W 11 D 23 L
Being a Leeds United fan isn’t the easiest thing in the world. Yeah, fans sing that we’ve “been through it all together” like a badge of honor, but honestly, ever since 2004, it’s been a bit crap. From dodgy owners to playing in League One to playoff losses, it’s been a been hard to keep the faith.
Of course, after last season’s slide down the table, one could forgive fans for feeling just a bit apprehensive about all of the changes that have been taking place at the club. Lots of owners have promised and failed to deliver. Garry Monk, who guided the team to its best finish in years, leaves for Middlesbrough. It all seemed so bleak.
But turns out that Andrea Radrizzani actually puts his money where his mouth is and ponies up the cash to buy back Elland Road. The team starts to do things right, brings back Leeds United Ladies from the brink of financial ruin, and starts acting like a proper club again.
However, the players that the new Director of Football, Victor Orta keep buying aren’t established Championship players. To borrow a phrase, you had to Google them to figure out who they are. So fans are nervous again, wondering if these new players will have what it takes to play for Leeds and in England. And then Samu Saiz scores a hat-trick on his debut for the club in the Carabao Cup and everyone loses their mind.
Preston North End will come to Elland Road feeling a little confused this weekend. In their home opener last Saturday, Preston beat promotion hopefuls Sheffield Wednesday 1-0 on the backs of a penalty scored by Daniel Johnson, after former Leeds player Tom Lees brought down Preston striker Jordan Hugill in the box. But in midweek, Preston lost away at League Two Accrington Stanley 3-2 in the League Cup after drawing level in stoppage time only to give up a goal less than two minutes later.
And while former Leeds manager Simon Grayson left Preston in the summer to take the hot seat at relegated Sunderland, new manager Alex Pike seems to be taking over where Grayson left off, as Preston placed 11th in the Championship last season with a fairly uninspiring record of 16 W 14 D 16 L for 62 points and a goal difference of one. Preston are hardly favorites to get to the playoff places, and are hardly relegation candidates either. Most fans and pundits alike will expect them to finish solidly mid-table, and with their win over Wednesday in the Championship opener coupled with their loss away to Accrington Stanley, they look to be a fairly uninspiring team again this year.
This team is something else. Granted its against Port Vale but this team is exciting to watch. Bring on Preston!— We Are Leeds (@weareleeds_) August 9, 2017
Leeds, of course, have promotion on the brain after a thrilling win away at Bolton Wanderers and a dominating performance against Port Vale in the League Cup already under their belts. And while Preston might be hoping for a result away from home, Leeds hasn’t lost to Preston in almost seven years and beat them both home and away last season.
The biggest headache for Leeds head coach Thomas Christiansen will be which in-form star he selects at the attacking positions. While Pablo Hernandez was brilliant against Bolton and was one of the bright spots for the club early in last season, Samu Saiz made a brilliant case for starting this match after running riot all over Port Vale on Wednesday. It’s still early in the season, and with a mid-week clash against fellow promotion candidates Fulham, Christiansen might choose to go with squad rotation instead of playing the hot, er, foot against Preston. Chris Wood will likely get the start up top, and Gianni Alioski has to be one of the first names on the team sheet. Expect to see Kemar Roofe take up the other winger spot.
The midfield will likely see the return of Eunan O’Kane and Kalvin Phillips, although again with the midweek match against Fulham looming, Christiansen might choose to go for the more physical pairing of Ronaldo Vieira and Liam Bridcutt in the middle of the park. Pontus Jansson’s suspension is over, and not a moment too soon, with Gaetano Berardi and Matthew Pennington both out injured. As Rob Green is apparently ill, expect Felix Wiedwald to get the nod again in goal.
Leeds (4-2-3-1): Wieldwald; Ayling, Jansson, Cooper, Borthwick-Jackson; O’Kane, Phillips; Roofe, Hernandez, Alioski; Wood
Preston (4-3-2-1): Maxwell; Fisher, Huntington, Spurr, Cunningham; Pearson, Browne; Barkhuizen, Johnson, Robinson; Hugill.
Expected Score: 3-1 Leeds. I still don’t see a clean sheet from this club, but I think that the team has enough fire power to score a few goals, even if Preston go in looking for a draw.