Date: 3 February 2018
Time: 15.00 GMT, 10.00 AM EST
Venue: Elland Road
Television: beIN Sports 2 in Australia, no domestic TV coverage
Radio: BBC Radio Leeds (not available online)
All-time Record: Leeds United v Cardiff City 17W 13D 27L
Reverse Fixture: Cardiff City 3 - 1 Leeds United
Leeds United are a team in desperate need of a win going into this weekend’s match against Cardiff City. The club are struggling for form after a rather dismal January which saw the club drop out of the playoff places and crash out of the FA Cup in rather spectacular fashion, losing 2-1 at Newport County.
The reserve fixture featured one of the worst losses so far this season by Leeds, as Cardiff dominated a physical match that saw Leeds give up two goals before going down to 10 men, as Liam Cooper got two yellow cards in about seven minutes near the end of the first half. And while Kemar Roofe pulled one back for Leeds, the match was always out of reach and Cardiff ended up with a third goal to put the match away.
This time around, Leeds have already put themselves in a bad position, as four players are suspended for the match. Liam Cooper is suspended for a red card against Millwall and Kalvin Phillips is still suspended for yellow card accumulation. Eunan O’Kane has one match to go on his red card suspension for headbutting an Ipswich player, and Samu Saiz still has three matches to go on his ban for spitting in the dying moments of the Newport County match.
To add injury to insult, Matthew Pennington picked up a knock in the warm-ups before the Hull City match on Tuesday night and Conor Shaughnessy went down injured early in the match, meaning that Gaetano Berardi, normally a fullback, had to play at centre-back and Stuart Dallas, who usually lines-up as a left winger, came in and played at right back. Thomas Christiansen said that Pennington is fit and will start against Cardiff, but that still leaves no senior central defenders on the roster in case something happens. Pontus Jansson is also sitting on nine yellow cards, meaning that he’ll have to watch himself and not grab the bait that the Neil Warnock coached Cardiff City players will be sure to cast out, wanting to goad the Sweden defender into a daft card and a suspension.
Up front, Pierre-Michel Lasogga followed up his wonderful match against Millwall with an underwhelming performance against Hull City. Against Cardiff, he’s going to have to be at his best, as the defensive presence of Cardiff will attempt to smother the Leeds attack. If anything, Leeds should abandon the idea of bombing crosses into the box or lumping the ball up the pitch towards Lasogga, as the height of the Cardiff defenders will make any such attempts futile. Lasogga is often best when he gets the ball in stride, as he is the best natural finisher on the team.
Behind Lasogga, Pablo Hernandez will almost certainly get the start at the number 10 position, with Gjanni Alioski and Kemar Roofe playing on the wings. Alioski missed the best chance Leeds had to score when he tripped over his feet in the box against Hull, so perhaps he’ll make up for the miss with a cracking goal against Cardiff, right? Roofe looked rather poor, and he’s got to be looking over his shoulder with new signing Tyler Roberts looking to get some match time in the very near future. Roberts is going to miss this weekend’s match, as he’s not fit, but expect to see him on the pitch very soon. Although Roofe is somehow Leeds’ top scorer this season, he’s not consistent enough to play as the lone striker, so perhaps the teenage wunderkind from West Bromwich Albion will push him to get some consistency.
In the central midfield, with both Phillips and O’Kane still suspended, Ronaldo Vieira and Adam Forshaw will get the start. Forshaw looked pretty good in his first game for the club against Hull, but he’s going to be have to be able to push the ball up the pitch to the Leeds forwards if the club are going to be able to break down the Cardiff defence. Vieira is still the best Leeds midfielder in the dark arts of midfield destruction, and he’ll have to be on top of his game to break down a surprisingly decent Cardiff offence.
As for the defence, much like the midfield, the team pretty much picks itself because of missing players. Jansson will feature as one of the central defenders, along with a fit Pennington. New left back Laurens De Bock will be in the line-up and Gaetano Berardi will play at right-back, his preferred position that he has almost never actually played at this season, with him filling in wherever he is needed.
Despite it appearing that Andy Lonergan was headed to Sunderland, he’s still at the club as the deal broke down at the last minute. Felix Wiedwald will be the starter for the rest of the season, even if Lonergan had stayed at the club, so that news really doesn’t matter that much in the long run. Wiedwald has been a bright spot in the club’s downturn in form, so whatever is causing the problem at Leeds doesn’t come from between the sticks.
I would like to say that Leeds will go out and thrash Cardiff as revenge for the terrible match that was played in Wales. I would like to say that Leeds will rebound with a good win and right the ship after a few poor results. I would like to say lots of things. Leeds currently look poor, and I’m not sure the club has it in it to pull a brilliant result out of the blue with Saiz suspended. I think the defence will do enough, but this game has soul-crushing draw written all over it from two teams that could really use a win. 1-1 draw.
Leeds United: (4-2-3-1) Wiedwald; Berardi, Pennington, Jansson, De Bock; Vieira, Forshaw; Alioski, Hernandez, Roofe; Lasogga.
Cardiff City: (4-5-1) Etheridge; Peltier, Manga, Morrison, Richards; Holiett, Paterson, Grujic, Ralls, Mendez-Liang; Madine