Date: 15 August 2017
Time: 19.45 BST, 14.45 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 Fulham 22 W 14 D 17 L
After the high of the two wins against Port Vale and Bolton Wanderers to start the season, Leeds fans came down a little bit off of their high as Leeds drew nil-nil at home to Preston North End on Saturday. While the team attacked with passion for the last half-hour of the match after Preston were reduced to 10 men, the first 60 minutes of the game was largely an effort by Preston to clog the midfield and not allow Leeds to get fluidity or movement going. Unfortunately, this will give a blue-print to any other teams that wish to grind out a nil-nil draw by simply kicking the Leeds players about, but with Fulham coming to town, at least fans won’t have to worry about that.
Fulham narrowly missed out on promotion last season! Our odds predict they will go close again! Do you agree? pic.twitter.com/8L1qdciPxa— Coral (@Coral) August 4, 2017
Going into this season, Fulham is one of the trendy picks to gain automatic promotion after they lost in heartbreaking style in the playoffs last year. And truthfully, it would have been good to see a team that actually likes to put the ball on the floor and, you know, actually play football get promoted rather than long-ball merchants or whatever kind of possession snoozefest that Huddersfield Town subjected the rest of the Championship to last season.
Leeds go into this match a little bloodied after failing to break down Preston over the weekend, and Christiansen will be likely rotating a few of the players to get some fresh legs into the match. While defence will likely remain more-or-less unchanged by necessity, it would not be surprising to see as many as four or five other changes to the side.
Rob Green is rumored to be available for this match, and if he is fit, Christiansen has to give him a chance to play tonight or he might as well be transfer listed. Green has dealt with being benched remarkably well for a player that was legitimately a contender for both player of the year for Leeds and Goalkeeper of the Year for the Championship. While he doesn’t appear to fit the mold of how TC wishes to have his goalkeepers play, at some point tactics have to be adjusted to the players on the pitch. Green is a former England number one, and shouldn’t have to beg to be put on the pitch when he could easily start for over half of the teams in the Championship.
Luke Ayling and Cameron Borthwick-Jackson were the only real standout performers against Preston, and unless TC wishes to give one of them a night off, they are both likely to start against Fulham. Pontus Jansson and Liam Cooper seemed a bit off against Preston, but they will be needed to be at their very best against a Fulham team that can score and won’t be looking to slog out a depressing draw to grab an away point.
On the wings, Stuart Dallas may start the game on the left wing, with Gianni Alioski looking to rebound from a wasted effort against Preston on the right wing. Against Port Vale, Alioski looked incredible, but his performance against the dark arts of physical “English” defending against Preston left much to be desired. Fulham will be likely starting starlet Ryan Sessegnon at left back tonight, and while he is absolute class going forward, he’s not going to be confused with Stuart Pearce anytime soon. Alioski will likely find much more room and space to work with, and having good pace down the right wing may limit Sessegnon from bombing forward on the attack.
Despite the hat trick against Port Vale, Samu Saiz was only brought on late in the match against Port Vale, instead Pablo Hernandez was preferred at the number 10 spot behind Chris Wood. Again, with a nod towards rotation and Hernandez’s age, look for Saiz to get the nod in the middle of the attack tonight.
Christiansen asked if he expects Wood to stay: "Yes. If you want to achieve something you don't sell your best players." #lufc— Phil Hay (@PhilHayYEP) August 12, 2017
Chris Wood simply has to start, if for no other reason than to prevent the howl of fans as Twitter in Leeds crashes with speculation about the fate of the big Kiwi. Wood has been linked in recent days with moves to Burnley and other “unnamed” Premier League clubs that may or may not rhyme with Lest Tomwich Elbion, but the club has repeated their desire to hang on to Wood enough times that the journalists covering the club likely have the responses scripted in advance, all ready to go once someone in the press asks the question.
The biggest question mark in the potential lineup for Leeds is in central midfield, where Kalvin Phillips failed to live up to his rather dramatic opening performance against Bolton. Ronaldo Vieira came on during the second half against Preston after a very good showing against Port Vale, so most fans and pundits expect him to get the start tonight. Eunan O’Kane has been the steadiest midfielder so far in this young season, so it would seem odd to drop him, but TC usually seems to like to pair his midfielders up, with Mateusz Klich or Liam Bridcutt usually preferred to play alongside Vieira rather than O’Kane. Klich looked off the pace against Port Vale, and Bridcutt may not feature at all, so will O’Kane retain his position in the middle? At this point, with an aggressive team in Fulham coming to Elland Road, it would make sense to leave the Ireland international in the lineup, but who knows.
If Leeds are to establish themselves as legitimate promotion candidates, they simply must get a decent result against Fulham tonight. It’s fine to thrash Port Vale in the League Cup or win away on opening day against a Bolton team that was just promoted and still under a transfer ban, but for the fans to believe that this year just might be the year to get the team back where it belongs and to put butts in seats for the ride up the table, Leeds must show up and play well enough for at least a draw, if not a win.
2-1 Leeds. Saiz will once again attempt to force TC’s hand into giving him the starting spot over Hernandez in the “first choice” XI at the club, and look for Borthwick-Jackson to outshine fellow left-back starlet Sessegnon, as CBJ’s performances are getting better the more he gets used to his teammates.
Leeds: (4-2-3-1) Green; Borthwick-Jackson, Jansson, Cooper, Ayling; Vieira, O’Kane; Dallas, Saiz, Alioski; Wood.
Fulham: (4-3-3): David Button; Ryan Sessegnon, Denis Odi, Tim Ream, Ryan Fredricks; Oliver Norwood, Kevin McDonald, Stefan Johansen; Sone Aluko, Floyd Ayite, Lucas Piazon.