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Match Preview: Cardiff City v Leeds United

Leeds travel to Wales to take on fellow Championship leaders

Cardiff City v Leeds United - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Harry Trump/Getty Images

Match: Cardiff City v Leeds United

Date: 26 September 2017

Time: 19.45 BST, 14.45 EDT

Venue: Cardiff City Stadium

Television: Sky Sports Football, Sky Sports Main Event

Radio: BBC Radio Leeds (not available online)

Streaming: WatchESPN.com in the United States, check local listings for EFL rights holders in other countries.

All-time Record: Leeds United v Cardiff City 17W 13D 26L

Leeds United travel to Wales to take on Cardiff City, who are level with Leeds United on top of the table with 20 points, with only goal difference separating the two clubs along with Wolverhampton. While it’s still early in the season, tonight’s match will provide some clarity at the top of the table, with both Leeds and Cardiff looking to end the match on top and be on the road for automatic promotion instead of rolling the dice with a play-off appearance. Of course, the season is a marathon, not a sprint, so perhaps matches in late September aren’t as important as we think they are, but defeating a promotion rival at their home would go a long ways towards solidifying the case that Leeds are currently making to be considered favorites in the promotion chase.

Neil Warnock is the current manager of Cardiff City, and while some areas of South Yorkshire may remember his time with their club fondly, his short unhappy spell at Leeds United is a time most fans would like to forget. And so with Cardiff, Warnock has once again cast his spell of physical, boring football that brings results, if not beauty, and once again his apologists can point to the league table as if a few results in August and September could ever make up for the soul-crushing mediocrity that his sides produce. Much like Sam Allardyce, Warnock managed teams are hard to break down and fail to entertain, placing value on things like grit and physical play over skill and ability on the ball.

High-flying Leeds come into the match after a gutsy win over Ipswich Town at home on Saturday and a thrilling win over Burnley in the League Cup on penalties, where every Leeds player scored and Andy Lonergan did well enough to send Leeds onto the next round. While the Cup match certainly helped put the Millwall loss to bed, the win over Ipswich Town certainly once again gave Leeds fans continued hope for the future. Leeds lost the home match last year to Cardiff after winning at the Cardiff City Stadium, and did the double over the Welsh club in the 2015-16 season, but the overall record against Cardiff in the Championship era is poor. Since 2004, Leeds have only beaten Cardiff a grand total of three times, all of which were the aforementioned wins in the past two seasons.

Up front, Pierre-Michel Lasogga has managed to make his mark at the club in a very short amount of time. He’s scored three goals in four matches so far, and the new dad has taken to Leeds and the Leeds fans like a duck to water. While he’s only a loanee at the club, he’s shown a remarkable amount of loyalty to the club and to the manager already, waiting until after the Ipswich match to tell the his manager and the club about his new baby that was born the day before. He is a shoe-in to start almost all of the matches that Leeds have in the Championship for the rest of the season as long as he is fit, and his size and physicality will make it difficult for Cardiff to shut the Leeds attack down.

The attacking midfield will likely look similar to the Ipswich match. It seems a folly to take Samu Saiz off at this point in time, as he’s arguably been Leeds United’s best player so far this season, and so he will almost certainly get the start in the attacking midfield position. On the wings, this might be the perfect match to get Stuart Dallas a start on the left wing with Gjanni Alioski on the right wing. Kemar Roofe might also get in the side if Christiansen expects a similar match as the visit to Millwall, as he was quick to pull Pablo Hernandez and Alioski off the pitch given the lack of space and time they were allowed to have on the ball. While Leeds will miss Pablo Hernandez’s ability from dead-ball situations, this is an ideal match for Hernandez to come on as a substitute to turn the match on its head as he did against Burnley in the League Cup last week.

In the central midfield, Eunan O’Kane and Kalvin Phillips will start barring an injury or a meteor landing on the training pitch, preventing one of them from getting to the stadium for the match. Christiansen has stuck with the pair since the first match away at Bolton Wanderers, and he’s shown no indication that he wishes to break the pair up, and the two of them have given him no reason to either.

In defence, Pontus Jansson looks to return to partner Liam Cooper as the centre back pairing, with Luke Ayling holding down the right back spot. After a couple of shaky performances, Vurnon Anita might be dropped for Gaetano Berardi on the left, but Christiansen has shown a lot of faith in the Dutch player so far this season, but Berardi is better defensively than Anita, and after watching both Millwall and Ipswich exploit the left side of the Leeds defence, Anita might sit.

Felix Wiedwald had his worst match in a Leeds kit Saturday against Ipswich, so look for him to try and redeem himself tonight in Wales. Wiedwald is the clear number one goalkeeper at the club, so unless Christiansen wants to send a message to the big German, he’s going to get the start pretty much no matter what. Christiansen noticed that Ipswich broke up the usual solid play out of the back, and he apparently wanted to address it, so we’ll see if the team is able to adjust quickly and overcome whatever Cardiff throws at them.

This might be the stiffest test yet for the Leeds club, but given all of the success on the young season, it would be hard to pick against Leeds right now. Christiansen is the rare coach that seems to learn from his mistakes quickly and looks to adjust the team in order to give them the best possible chance to win. It’s also worth noting that the club has yet to give up a goal when Cooper and Jansson are in the lineup, so if the skipper and the big Swede are fit, look for the Brick Wall to be put back up in front of the Leeds goal.

Predicted Score:

Leeds 2-1 Cardiff. Leeds should dominate this match, but look for Cardiff to nick a goal near the end to make it more interesting than it should be. Leeds will once again end the day on top of the heap in the Championship.

Predicted Lineups:

Leeds United: (4-2-3-1) Wiedwald; Ayling, Cooper, Jansson, Berardi; O’Kane, Phillips; Dallas, Saiz, Alioski; Lasogga.

Cardiff City: (4-2-3-1) Etheridge; Peltier, Morrison, Bamba, Bennett; Ralls, Gunnarsson; Mendez-Laing, Bryson, Hoilett; Zohore