Match: Leeds United v Bristol City
Date: 18 February 2018
Time: 16.30 GMT, 11.30 AM EST
Venue: Elland Road
Television: Sky Sports Football, Fox Sports Africa, beIN Sports 1 Australia
Radio: BBC Radio Leeds (not available online)
Streaming: WatchESPN.com in the United States, DAZN in Canada and much of Europe, beIN Sports Connect in New Zealand. Check Livesoccertv for listings where you live
All-time Record: Leeds United v Bristol City 21W 8D 8L
Reverse Fixture: Bristol City 0 - 3 Leeds United
Leeds United enter the second match in the Paul Heckingbottom era still looking for their first win since Boxing Day and still in desperate need of a win in order to still be considered a playoff contender. Leeds faced off against Sheffield United in a Yorkshire derby at Bramall Lane in their first match under Heckingbottom after Thomas Christiansen was sacked after the extremely poor result against Cardiff City, and despite playing better for stretches, Leeds still fell victim to a combination of poor defensive play and bad luck in the 2-1 loss against the Blades.
Leeds posted perhaps their best away win of the season against Bristol City at Ashton Gate back in October. Leeds, in midst of a similar poor series of results, traveled to high-flying Bristol City and won three nil in a match that featured two goals from Samu Saiz, including an early goal that was scored after only four minutes, and a late header from Pierre-Michel Lasogga sealed all three points. Most fans, however, remember the match because of Gaetano Berardi’s headbutt of Matt Taylor. Both players saw red in the dust-up that occurred in the 79th minute, but the damage was already done by that point in the match.
Bristol City went on to defeat Manchester United in the League Cup quarterfinals, only to fall to Manchester City in the semi-finals and the results that saw Bristol City flirt with the automatic promotion spots have dried up a bit, with Bristol City now sitting in 6th place in the table, but only three points ahead of Sheffield United and Preston North End and with an inferior goal difference to Fulham, who are level with the Robins on points. Last week, Bristol City somehow was unable to hold on to a 3-0 halftime lead over Sunderland at home, so either the team is going to be defeated and disinterested, or they’re going come out fired up and looking for revenge.
Leeds are sitting in 11th place, eight points and five places behind Bristol City, and while the pundits and fans have been trying to talk themselves into Leeds still being able to go on a miracle run to the playoffs, that ship has largely sailed at this point, despite all the talk from the management at Leeds.
So will Heckingbottom gamble and try to go for a big win? Or will he attempt to blood some younger players in with the first team to try and get some experience? At the very least, Leeds will still be missing Saiz, Berardi, and Liam Cooper through suspension and will be missing Luke Ayling, Conor Shaughnessy, and Tyler Roberts through long-term injuries. Kemar Roofe, despite taking a blow to the head against the Blades, is available.
Jack Clarke and Tom Pearce both trained with the first team today but Heckingbottom says opportunities playing for the first team will have to be earned #lufc— Lee Sobot (@LeeSobotYEP) February 16, 2018
In what is good news for the younger players, both Jack Clarke and Tom Pearce trained with the first team, and with a number of players out because of injury and suspension, the young players know they have a good chance to at least make the bench, if not the starting lineup, if they play well enough.
Pierre-Michel Lasogga's last 4 games for Leeds:— LUFCDATA (@LUFCDATA) February 13, 2018
59 successful passes
26 aerial duels won
7 shots on-target
3 goals ⚽
In the same timeframe (Jan 20th onwards), No @SkybetChamp player has attempted more shots (16). #LUFC pic.twitter.com/ODoWiBiDDf
A renewed Pierre-Michel Lasogga should get the start at striker for Leeds this Sunday. He’s been a bright spot over the past month or so, even with the team playing poorly. While he still isn’t as mobile as one would like, whatever plagued his motivation and finishing earlier in the season seems to have gone away.
In the midfield, with Heckingbottom preferring a 4-1-4-1 (or 4-3-3 depending on your outlook on life), Leeds should start with two wingers and three central midfielders. Expect Adam Forshaw, Ronaldo Vieira, and Kalvin Phillips to get the start. Eunan O’Kane didn’t really have the best match against Sheffield United, and while neither did Phillips, if Vieira is fit, he should play the more defensive midfield role while Phillips and Forshaw play the other two roles.
On the wings, Pablo Hernandez should get the start on one flank and Gjanni Alioski should get the start on the other flank. Honestly, I don’t think that Alioski should automatically get the nod, and I wouldn’t be upset to see Paweł Cibicki get a chance to start, but we’ll see what happens when the teams kick off. We’ll also have to see where Saiz is going to play when he is back from suspension, as his best position, the number 10 attacking midfielder, isn’t used in Heckingbottom’s favoured positions.
In defence, a lack of options make this pretty easy to predict. Laurens De Bock will almost certainly start at left-back, with Stuart Dallas on the right. Matthew Pennington and Pontus Jansson will pair up in the middle of the defence. Ouasim Bouy, who played at central defence while on loan at Cultural Leónesa might be an option, but he was terrible while at the La Liga 2 side and unless he suddenly finds his ability, the former Juventus player will likely only be a bench option for the rest of this time at Leeds.
In goal, Felix Wiedwald will again get the start. He’s also put his issues behind him and played pretty well over the past few months. The club might be losing and giving up goals, but they aren’t his fault.
Leeds are in a sorry patch of form, but so are Bristol City. The Leeds team that had a nice win away at Ashton Gate hasn’t been seen in weeks, and the player that drove Leeds forward against the Robins, Samu Saiz, is still suspended. At this point, the process might be more important than the results, and while a win here would be great, I’d rather see the team play well than play terrible and nick a win. I don’t see either team being able to keep a clean sheet, so I’ll go with 1-1 draw.
Leeds United: (4-1-4-1) Wiedwald; Dallas, Jansson, Pennington, De Bock; Vieira; Hernandez, Phillips, Forshaw, Alioski; Lasogga.
Bristol City: (4-2-3-1) Fielding; Bryan, Flint, Wright, Smith; Pack, Brownhill; Kent, Reid, Paterson; Diédhiou.