Date: 25 August 2017
Time: 17.30 BST, 12.30 EDT
Venue: The City Ground, Nottingham
Television: Sky Sports Football
Radio: BBC Radio Leeds (not available online)
Streaming: Watch ESPN
All-time Record: Leeds United v Nottingham Forest: 30 W 32 D 33 L
Nottingham Forest and Leeds United have a lot more in common than supporters would necessarily like to admit. Both clubs had their glory years in the 1970s, both were part of the original Premier League but have since spent time in the third division of English football, and both have had new owners confirmed this summer with the departure of unpopular owners. And after four matches, both teams are already exceeding expectations this season in the Championship.
Leeds haven’t allowed a league goal after surrendering two goals in the opening match against Bolton Wanderers and have dispatched a pair of League Two teams in the League Cup. Forest have blanked Millwall at home, beaten Shrewsbury Town at home in the first round of the League Cup, came back to win a seven goal thriller at Griffin Park against Brentford, and beaten both Middlesbrough at home and Newcastle United on the road in the League Cup this past week. Their only loss this season has come on a trip to South Yorkshire to take on Barnsley FC.
Nottingham Forest fans have a reason to dream… we are finally a club with structure under the new owner (Irish Sun) https://t.co/gQ6S3a7321— Nottm Forest news (@NottmForestNews) August 4, 2017
Much like Leeds fans have felt a relief having Andrea Radrizzani as the new owner, after the cartoon villainy of Massimo Cellino, Forest fans are relieved that their own terrible owner, Fawaz al-Hasawi, is gone. Olympiakos owner Evangelos Marinakis has taken over at the club, and while he might have his own skeletons in the closet, he knows how to run a football club.
At the start of the season, the defence at Leeds was seen as a potential weak point, but the performance of the central defenders, Pontus Jansson, Liam Cooper, Matthew Pennington, and Conor Shaughnessy, have all played well enough for Christiansen to say that he is “comfortable with what I have” and despite the injury to Pennington, not looking for another central defender in the transfer market at the present time. The fullbacks have been a bit of a revolving door, however, after the acquisition of Manchester United loanee Cameron Borthwick-Jackson and the injury to Gaetano Berardi forcing some creative use of Vurnon Anita. Anita, despite getting a slight injury during the midweek cup tie, is fit enough to play, with Christiansen saying that he’s available “if he’s needed.”
The central midfield pair is likely the first thing that Christiansen fills out on his team sheet, as he’s chosen Kalvin Phillips and Eunan O’Kane to be the men in the middle every league match so far this season, and the trip to Forest will likely not see a change. One of Ronaldo Vieira or Mateusz Klich will likely be options off the bench for Leeds against Forest.
Last year’s captain Liam Bridcutt, who had only appeared once for Leeds as a sub against Port Vale, made his switch to the City Ground earlier this week, and it will be bittersweet to see him in Forest colors. Most fans will wish him the best, although perhaps not this weekend.
Pablo, Pontus, Felix, Berardi, O Kane and Ekuban all there to watch the game. Ekuban on crutches.— Simon Kaiser (@curlywand) August 22, 2017
The striker and attacking midfielders are the positions that are most up in the air for Leeds right now, with the departure of Chris Wood and the injuries to Caleb Ekuban and Pablo Hernandez. Ekuban was spotted on crutches during midweek, so it is doubtful that he will appear for the club, and Hernandez’s status is unknown at this point in time. Samuel Saiz and Gianni Alioski are the obvious starters at the number 10 and right wing, with either Stuart Dallas or Kemar Roofe taking up the other winger spot.
New teenage signing Jay-Roy Grot may be thrown into the fire and start up top against Forest, but after Kemar Roofe ran riot over Newport County, it would only seem fair to have him start as the lone striker for Leeds this Saturday, with Stuart Dallas slotting in on the left wing.
Rob Green played in Cup in midweek, and while he didn’t have a bad game, he was at least partially at fault for the goal that Newport scored early in the match. Felix Wiedwald is now the obvious first choice goalkeeper at the club, and barring a shocking loss of form or an injury, he will likely be the between the sticks for all league matches the rest of the season.
2-1 Leeds. I don’t know if I can pick them to have yet another clean sheet, after three in four league games, but even a reborn Forest side will have trouble scoring against Leeds. And while my head says “open 1-1 draw” my heart says “2-1 win with Saiz making Forest look silly.”
Leeds United: (4-2-3-1): Wiedwald; Ayling, Jansson, Cooper, Borthwick-Jackson; O’Kane, Phillips; Alioski, Saiz, Dallas; Roofe.
Nottingham Forest: (4-2-3-1): Smith; Darikawa, Worrall, Mills, Traore; Bouchalakis, Bridcutt; McKay, Dowell, Osborn; Murphy.