Match: Leeds United v Brentford
Date: 24 February 2018
Time: 15.00 GMT, 10.00 AM EST
Venue: Elland Road
Radio: BBC Radio Leeds (not available online)
All-time Record: Leeds United v Brentford: 12W 12D 11L
Reverse Fixture: Brentford 3 - 1 Leeds United
Leeds will host Brentford in a match that both teams will need to have any realistic possibility of catching Bristol City for the final playoff place. Brentford sit in 10th place, sitting four points away from the final playoff place, depending on tonight’s result between Hull City and Sheffield United. Leeds sit in 11th place, but are four points behind Brentford.
"It's Barbet.... It's perfect! It may just win this game for Brentford!"@BarbetYoann's free-kick proved to be the decisive blow when we met Leeds United back in November! #LUFCBEES pic.twitter.com/y5yxkYAcTt— BFTV (@BrentfordFCTV) February 22, 2018
The reverse fixture will be remembered by Leeds fans for the goalkeeping nightmare that befell Andy Lonergan. Lonergan fumbled a simple ball that lead to the first goal against and then also inexplicably failed to get to a routine free kick into the box, allowing Brentford’s winning goal after Leeds had pushed on in the second half, attempting to win the match. Leeds allowed another late goal in this match, but the damage had already been done at that point.
Therefore, Paul Heckingbottom’s men will be hoping to avenge one of the worst losses under previous boss Thomas Christiansen. Not only did the match feature a dire performance from the goalkeeper, Pierre-Michel Lasogga missed an absolute sitter in the firsts half and was hauled off at half-time and wasn’t seen again for weeks.
This match should feature the return of Samu Saiz to the starting lineup. And while Heckingbottom said today that Pablo Hernandez has a good chance of returning to the lineup, it’s likely that he will start on the bench if he’s involved at all. Heckingbottom said he is optimistic that Hernandez, along with Kemar Roofe and Lasogga, will be fit to face Brentford tomorrow, and honestly, if Lasogga isn’t fit, Leeds are in serious trouble.
Up front, if Lasogga is fit, which to be fair, I really hope he is, he will almost certainly get the start. Along side, or around him, Samu Saiz will likely get the start, as the spot that will most lineup with his skills in Heckingbottom’s preferred formation of 4-4-2 will be with Saiz starting as a striker.
In the midfield, the central midfield might change once again, with Ronaldo Vieira still not looking fully fit and sitting on a number of yellow cards. Kalvin Phillips has looked better since his first match under Heckingbottom, so it’s likely that he will start alongside Adam Forshaw. Forshaw has been the most consistent, if not best, player since arriving from Middlesbrough. He is an automatic start for the rest of the season, as long as he is fit.
"He puts pressure on himself and judges himself too harshly."#Leeds boss Paul Heckingbottom has been impressed with Gjanni Alioski's attitude since his arrival at Elland Road | @PhilHayYEP #lufc #MOT #Twitterwhites https://t.co/dQFCbRS5Fv— YEP Sport (@YEPSportsdesk) February 23, 2018
On the flanks, Stuart Dallas and Gjanni Alioski will almost certainly get the start. Dallas has played well since being returned to the lineup under Heckingbottom, and while he’s filled in okay at right back, he’s best as a winger and/or right midfielder. Alioski is at his best when he plays with Samu Saiz, as the counter-attack for the second goal against Derby County reminded everyone. Hopefully a full 90 minutes of Saiz and Alisoki running riot on Brentford will pay off again, with both of them well-rested after appearing as second-half substitutes against Derby.
The defence almost certainly picks itself these days, however that’s not necessarily a good thing. Real questions have to be asked of the performance of both Laurens De Bock and Liam Cooper after the draw against Derby. De Bock looked quite poor against Derby, with the Belgian not even dealing with routine balls and allowing Derby to get into dangerous attacking positions.
They’re making mistakes because they don’t trust each other. Last night Cooper’s backwards header for Derby’s 1st goal was De Bock’s ball and Cooper’s header for the corner when both he and Felix had time to do the right thing sums up our season!— Derek Read (@Read_madongolf) February 22, 2018
Cooper, despite the brilliant through ball to Dallas that set up the opening Leeds goal, also had a rather poor game. Unfortunately for Leeds, Matthew Pennington failed to impress in his brief stint filling in for Cooper while Cooper was suspended, so it’s not as if the other options are much better. Pontus Jansson will get the the nod as the other central defender and Gaetano Berardi will likely get the start at right back, although if I was picking the team, Berardi would go back to the left and Vurnon Anita would play right back in order to drop De Bock, but I’m not the one picking the team.
In goal, despite his shortcomings, Felix Wiedwald is the only real option at this point. Lonergan turned in a stinker of a performance against Brentford the first time around, and he’s honestly not as good as Wiedlwald in many areas of the game. Of course, Lonergan can deal with crosses and is assertive, so who knows. If Leeds fail to win this match, I would work Kamil Miazek or Bailey Peacock-Farrell into the mix, as it will be good to get the kids some experience.
Brentford have been in fine form as of late, having won their last two matches. Leeds, on the other hand, let a win slip through their gasp at in stoppage time on Wednesday against Derby. Leeds are due for a win, but they’ve been due for a win for sometime now. Brentford need this victory to stay in contention for the playoffs, however, even if Leeds aren’t able to reach the playoffs, they can at least play spoiler. 2-1 Leeds to get Heckingbottom his first victory in charge of Leeds.
Leeds United: (4-4-2) Wiedwald; Berardi, Jansson, Cooper, De Bock; Alioski, Forshaw, Phillips, Dallas; Lasogga, Saiz.
Brentford: (4-2-3-1) Bentley; Barbet, Bjellend, Egan, Dalsgaard; Mokotjo, McEachran; Watkins, Sawyers, Jozefzoon; Maupay