Match: Leeds United v Newport County
Date: 22 August 2017
Time: 19.45 BST, 14.45 EDT
Venue: Elland Road Sunderland
All-time Record: Leeds United v Newport County 0 W 0 D 1 L
For only the second time in the history of either club, Newport County will face Leeds United today. The only other match occurred in 1949 when Newport County beat Leeds 3 to 1 at Elland Road in an FA Cup match.
Now while there isn’t much of a history between the two clubs, don’t expect the Newport fans or players to treat the match as a friendly or a lovely day out. They will be there to try and shock the world and upset the greatly favored Leeds team.
Newport County struggled most of last season and literally escaped the drop on the very last day of the season. They scored a last minute goal to beat Notts County 2-1 and instead ended Hartlepool United’s 108 year run the in Football League, despite Pools scoring twice to beat Darlington and win their final league match.
This season has started off much better for the Exiles, as they currently sit in 9th place with a record of 1 Win and 2 Draws for 5 points. And while the fans and players might dream of a famous win at Elland Road, the reality is that the manager will likely wish to just get a decent showing in the League Cup so that he can focus on picking up points in the league and prevent another flirtation with relegation. Of course, that didn’t stop them from shocking League One high-fliers Southend United 2-0 in the previous round of the League Cup.
Leeds, on the other hand, face a bit of a dilemma. Does Thomas Christiansen make a number of changes to rest the players before a big match against Nottingham Forest on Saturday? Or will he play his regular players to give them experience gelling as a group given the departure of Chris Wood?
At the very least, expect Rob Green to come in and play between the sticks. He hasn’t featured yet for Leeds this season, although he was reportedly in line to start against Port Vale in the previous League Cup match if he hadn’t been hurt. With all of the other turmoil and rumors at the club currently, Green’s new-found status as back-up seems to have been forgotten. And if he’s disgruntled or wants to leave, he’s not saying so publicly, which is a refreshing change from most modern footballers.
One of the areas that will likely see some rotation will be the defence. Expect Cameron Borthwick-Jackson to come in and start at left back with Vurnon Anita playing at right back to give Luke Ayling a well-deserved breather. Conor Shaughnessy played the game of his life against Fulham, so expect him to partner either Cooper or Jansson in central defence, with the nod perhaps going to Jansson, as Cooper sat out the last mid-week game with a knock.
In central midfield, expect Mateusz Klich and Ronaldo Vieira to pair up. The two of them started in midfield against Port Vale, and it will be important for them to get playing time and stay match-fit. Vieira has been a surprise omission from the starting lineup this past season, after playing so well last year, but at this point, Kalvin Phillips and Eunan O’Kane have given the head coach no reason to drop them from the lineup.
Up front is where things get tricky. Right now, I would imagine that Hadi Sacko and Stuart Dallas to get trotted out to play on the wings but given how poor Sacko looked in the previous match, will he even be given a chance? Of course, Gianni Alioski may be started on the bench and brought on later in the match if the team needs a spark as they did against Port Vale. There is an outside chance to see Madger Gomes make a starting appearance for the club at the left-wing, but he will at least be a bench option.
Samu Saiz has been inserted into the starting lineup after putting on a show against Port Vale two weeks ago, and with Pablo Hernandez suffering an injury against Sunderland, it appears that Saiz will once again get the start in the #10 role behind the striker. If Leeds get an early lead, he might be brought off to keep him fresh for the Forest match, but it would be shocking for him not to start this match.
With the departure of Wood and the injury to Caleb Ekuban in the previous match against Sunderland, Souleymane Doukara is the only fit striker on the first-team books. Kemar Roofe has played as a striker before, but rarely as a lone striker in a 4-2-3-1, and so it remains to be seen if he’s trusted to lead the line against Newport. Also adding another wrinkle is the possibility that Doukara may be headed for the door, with both Rangers FC and Preston North End reportedly interested in the striker. With a big match looming against Forest on the weekend, expect Roofe to be rested and Doukara start with a U23 player, possibly one of the exciting signings that we’ve heard about, on the bench to possibly get a run in the side for the last half-hour or so.
A League, er, Carabao, Cup run will stretch the club thin during the early part of the schedule, although it also will give an opportunity for younger players or fringe first-team players to display what they have to offer. After all, Saiz only made the bench against Bolton Wanderers on opening day, and were it not for his breakout performance against Port Vale a few days later, he might not have made the decision to not have him in the starting XI be such a painful one for Christiansen.
3-0 Leeds United
Leeds United: (4-2-3-1) Green; Anita, Jansson, Shaughnessy, Borthwick-Jackson; Vieira, Klich; Sacko, Saiz, Dallas; Doukara
Newport County: (4-4-2) Day; White, Bennett, Demetriou, Pipe; Willmott, Dolan, Owen-Evans, Butler; McCoulsky, Reynolds