Match: Derby County v Leeds United
Date: 21 February 2018
Time: 19.40 GMT, 2.45 PM EST
Venue: Pride Park
Television: Sky Sports Football, Fox Sports 1 Africa, beIN Sports 2 Australia, beIN Sports 2 New Zealand, beIN Sports 12 Arabia 12 HD in most of the Middle East
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, beIN Sports Connect Arabia. Check Livesoccertv for listings where you live
All-time Record: Leeds United v Derby County 54W 27D 37L
Reverse Fixture: Leeds United 1 - 2 Derby County
Leeds United travel to Pride Park tonight to take on Derby County in a match that both teams need to solidify their promotion possibilities. Derby sit in 4th place in the table, and a win would seem them go ahead of Aston Villa in the third place. Depending on the results of the match up between Cardiff City and Ipswich Town, Derby could go as high as second place on goal difference with a win.
Leeds, on the other hand, had more teams get between them and the final playoff place, as Millwall jumped ahead of the club in the table, leaving Leeds in 12th place going into a rematch of a bad loss at home earlier this season.
Derby won at Elland Road after some questionable decisions by the referee, but the match was still lost by Leeds after taking a lead into half-time. The team seemed to fold once Derby had drawn level and while the penalty decision late in the match was questionable, it wasn’t as if Derby didn’t create many chances to take all three points.
Paul Heckingbottom will have almost a entire Leeds squad to choose from for the first time in his time as manager of Leeds, as Liam Cooper, Samu Saiz, and Gaetano Berardi all return from suspension tonight. It wouldn’t be a shock to see all three players return to the starting lineup, with Saiz almost certainly a lock to be involved, even if he has been missing for six games.
In the attack, look for Pierre-Michel Lasogga to get the start at striker given the form he’s had over the last month or so. Lasogga has been one of the most consistent performers for Leeds during the dry spell since Boxing Day, and while the feelings of the fans may run hot and cold for the big German, if Leeds are to make any sort of challenge for the playoffs, Lasogga might be the the most critical player in the lineup.
Heckingbottom usually has his teams play in either a 4-1-4-1 or a 4-4-2 formation without a “number 10” attacking midfielder position, so I expect we will see Samu Saiz paired up top with Lasogga, with Saiz given either a free role to lead the attack or instructions to play off of Lasogga. Saiz and Lasogga carved up Bristol City at Ashton Gate back in October, so if the two of them can return to that sort of form on the pitch, Leeds might yet have a chance at saving their season.
On the flanks, Pablo Hernandez isn’t the greatest winger in the world, but he might be the second best player on the team and he’s also got the best dead-ball delivery of any Leeds player, so he pretty much has to be involved in the lineup. He started at left midfield with Stuart Dallas starting at right midfield against Bristol City, and even with Kemar Roofe grabbing a late equalizer, I don’t see either him or Gjanni Alioski getting into the team over Dallas or Hernandez.
In central midfield Adam Forshaw is a lock to start. He’s been a mainstay in the centre of the pitch ever since coming over from Middlesbrough, and it would be a shock to see him dropped at this point in time.
Eunan O’Kane, on the other hand, has had two shockingly bad matches in a row, and should probably sit on the bench and think about what he’s done. Kalvin Phillips looked better last week after looking lost against Sheffield United, so maybe he will get another look at starting in midfield. Ronaldo Vieira, fresh off of being named one of the top 20 teenage prospects in Europe, might get a start, but his form has been plagued by injury as of late, and there is no reason to rush him back into the lineup. It will take a miracle to get to the playoffs, and the team will just have to do it without their bright young midfield star.
On defence, Matthew Pennington had an opportunity to grab the starting centre back position away from Liam Cooper, but if the last match is anything to go by, Pennington will once again be sat on the bench while Cooper gets a return to the side. Pontus Jansson will once again partner with the Leeds skipper in central defence.
The fullbacks will likely be Laurens De Bock on the left with Gaetano Berardi returning to play on the right. Vurnon Anita didn’t do a terrible job against Bristol City, but Berardi is better defensively than the Dutchman, and Derby County will be looking to push forward at home.
Felix Wiedwald had another awful game after playing decently well for a good stretch, making the keeper position one to watch for in this match. Andy Lonergan has already shown that he’s not going to be an answer at keeper, and while it might be a good idea to get one of Kamil Miazek or Bailey Peacock-Farrell involved later on in the season, if this team has any illusions of making the playoffs, the U23s aren’t going to cut it. Expect Wiewald to get a start, but once the playoffs are firmly out of reach, don’t be surprised to see a different face or two in the back.
Leeds United: (4-4-2) Wielwald; Berardi, Jansson, Cooper, De Bock; Dallas, Forshaw, Phillips, Hernandez; Saiz, Lasogga.
Derby County: (4-2-3-1) Carson; Forsyth, Keogh, Davies, Baird; Huddlestone, Ledley; Anya, Vydra, Lawrence; Jerome
Leeds have their backs against a wall here, and are desperate for a win. Derby, however, are closer to a return to the Premier League than they ever have been in the past decade. Derby will want to do the double over a potential promotion rival at home and while I think Heckingbottom’s plans will be boosted by the return of Saiz, I don’t think the Leeds defence is good enough to contain Derby. Of course, Derby lost 2-0 to Sheffield Wednesday last time out, so who knows. 2-2 draw with Leeds fighting back to draw level and both teams ruing missed chances.