Date: 12 September 2017
Time: 19.45 BST, 2:45 EDT
Venue: Elland Road, Leeds
Radio: BBC Radio Leeds (not available online)
Streaming: LUTV outside of the UK and Ireland.
All-time Record: Leeds United v Birmingham City 38W 26D 38L
Birmingham City had a dismal year last season, barely escaping the drop as they beat Bristol City 1-0 on the final day of the season after winning against a greatly weakened Huddersfield Town team the week before that had already secured a playoff place.
Harry Redknapp was brought in to save the club from relegation, and in true Redknapp fashion, he wheeled and dealed during the summer transfer window, bringing in a number of new players. including defenders Carl Jenkinson and Cohen Bramall from Arsenal, midfielder Liam Walsh from Everton, forward Sam Gallagher from Southampton, and midfielder Jérémie Boga from Chelsea. Adding to the loan signings, Redknapp also signed Brentford’s Harlee Dean, who was heavily linked with Leeds during the transfer window, and ex-Brighton & Hove Albion keeper David Stockdale, who was a boyhood Leeds fan.
While it might be a wonderful feeling for Stockdale to come back to Yorkshire and play at Elland Road, Leeds fans are hoping that his homecoming is a nightmare of shots whizzing past him at top speed, into the back of the net.
Leeds are undefeated in all competitions so far this season and a riding a five game clean sheet streak, having not allowed a single goal in the Championship since opening day at Bolton Wanderers. And despite all the new faces at Birmingham, they sit outside of the relegation places on goal difference alone, level on points with Leeds United’s last
victim opponent, Burton Albion. Birmingham have four points from six matches and are riding a three game losing streak.
TEAM NEWS: Leeds United's Eunan O'Kane & Vernon Anita fit despite taken off v Burton. Matthew Pennington (ankle) may return in a week #LUFC— Adam Pope (@APOPEY) September 11, 2017
Leeds will likely line-up in a similar fashion to the match on the weekend, depending on the status of the newest Lasogga and what kind of shape the rest of the team is in. Vurnon Anita is reportedly fit to play against Birmingham City, although it seems harsh to keep Cameron Borthwick-Jackson on the bench once again.
Up top, unless he’s called away on daddy duty, Pierre-Michel Lasogga will likely once again lead the line. He looked unstoppable and unplayable last weekend against Burton Albion, and while it’s only one match against one of the poorest Championship teams, the gulf in class between Lasogga and the Burton defenders was dramatic. If he is pulled away back to Germany, Kemar Roofe should get the nod up top, and with the form that he’s in, there is no doubt that he would be able to fill in perfectly.
Speaking of form, Samu Saiz and Pablo Hernandez made a mockery of the Burton defence on Saturday, and should get the start once again. While it wasn’t necessarily a given that the two of them would even be on the pitch at the same time, much less both start, the pairing of them with a winger to play behind the lone striker has been a stroke of genius by Thomas Christiansen. Normally Gjanni Alioski would be the other player to start, but he was left on the bench over the weekend. I would imagine that if Roofe is used as a striker, Alioski would automatically get the nod, but even if Roofe isn’t used up top, it would be shocking to see Alioski sit for more than one match. Roofe may make way for Alioski against Birmingham, but Hernandez might also be given the night off.
The central midfield pair will once again be Eunan O’Kane and Kalvin Phillips. Ronaldo Vieira might be introduced earlier in the match to given O’Kane another early break depending on how the match is going, but it’s hard to drop either one of the current pairing as both have been outstanding.
In defence, the only question mark would be if Vurnon Anita is in the starting XI or if he starts on the bench. If he starts on the bench, look for Borthwick-Jackson to start at left back, but TC seems to prefer to stick with a fairly consistent lineup. Luke Ayling will line-up at right back and the central pairing of Pontus Jansson and Liam Cooper will once again form the brick wall in front of goalkeeper Felix Wiedwald.
This has all the makings of another steamrolling. The biggest job Christiansen has right now is keeping the players focused on the next match, and not to let the excitement of climbing up the table cloud the vision of the players. It was jarring to read Jansson’s telling of the team trying to figure out when they would mathematically not be eliminated from the playoffs during their slide down the standings instead of just taking each match one at a time. While it’s a bit of a cliché to say things like “take one game at a time,” it’s an important concept to instill in a team. Focusing too much on things out of your control or focusing too much on the standings and not on the play on the pitch are cancers that can eat away at the soul of a team. So far Christiansen has the team focusing on the right things and on the task at hand.
Birmingham may be able to gel into a mid-table team at some point during the season, but it’s likely not going to happen tonight. Look for another big win and yet more hype before the match away at Millwall on the weekend and the League Cup match against Burnley and some old “friends” in a week’s time.
Leeds 3-0 over Birmingham.
Leeds: (4-2-3-1) Wiedwald; Ayling, Cooper, Jansson, Anita; Phillips, O’Kane; Hernandez, Saiz, Alioski; Lasogga
Birmingham City: (4-3-3) Stockdale; Colin, Dean, Morrison, Grounds; Jota, Lowe, Davis; Boga, Gallagher, Walsh