Date: 17 March 2018
Time: 15.00 GMT, 11.00 AM EDT
Venue: Elland Road
Radio: BBC Radio Leeds (not available online)
All-time Record: Leeds United v Sheffield Wednesday 38W 24D 32L
Reverse Fixture: Sheffield Wednesday 3-0 Leeds United
Neither Leeds United nor Sheffield Wednesday fans expected this match to mean so little at this point of time in the table. Wednesday had been to the Championship Playoffs two seasons in a row, and were fully expected to make another run at the top six, if not the automatic promotion places. Leeds had just missed out on the playoff places last season.
Leeds started the season off brightly, going top of the table for a few weeks in August and September, but their humbling at Hillsborough back in October seemed to set the tone for much of the rest of the season. Wednesday won the match 3-0 in a scoreline that honestly flattered Leeds, as a number of good chances were missed by Wednesday and a penalty was incorrectly not called against Pontus Jansson, as the Swedish defender handled the ball in the box.
Leeds never seemed to recover the forward-looking play that former head coach Thomas Christiansen favoured at the beginning of the season after the defeat against Wednesday, as the high-pressing of Wednesday seemed to leave the team with no plan B. If there was one match that seemed to provide foreboding of the disaster that was January, it was this match.
Neither Leeds head coach Paul Heckingbottom or Sheffield Wednesday manager Jos Luhukay were in charge the last time this match was played, and Luhukay has been unlucky with injuries, leaving Wednesday only eight points away from the relegation spots, a far cry from what was expected of the team before the season started. Wednesday looks to get a few first team players back from injury, with Joost Van Aken, Barry Bannan, and Sam Hutchinson all fit once again.
Leeds will be without Kemar Roofe, Andy Lonergan, and Liam Cooper in the match, as all three were stated to not be available for the match by Heckingbottom during yesertday’s press conference.
Up top, Pierre-Michel Lasogga will almost certainly get the start at striker, as Caleb Ekuban didn’t remit himself very well against Reading FC last time out. Lasogga may not be the most mobile or quickest forward in the world, but he can at least finish, and sometimes that’s all you need.
Samu Saiz will almost certainly get the start behind Lasogga in the hole, but the wingers will force a bit of a selection decision for Heckingbottom. Pablo Hernandez most certainly should get the start, but will Stuart Dallas or Gjanni Alioski get the start on the opposite wing? As good as Dallas was last week, Alioski has a better attacking relationship with Saiz and the two of them can create magic on the pitch. Alioski often looks lost without Saiz on the pitch with him, and Saiz isn’t nearly as creative without Alioski. Alioski can provide a little more pace than Dallas and also has a better ability to track back and help out defensively.
In the middle of the pitch, unless something has changed, Ronaldo Vieira doesn’t appear to be fit and will almost certainly not start. Adam Forshaw has absolutely justified his place in the lineup. Eunan O’Kane? Kalvin Phillips? Which one will partner Forshaw? Right now, it will probably be O’Kane, given Heckingbottom’s penchant for sticking with his players but right now I don’t think that Heckingbottom knows his best XI, and that’s an issue.
On defence, Pontus Jansson will partner Matthew Pennington in central defence. Pennington had a few minutes of quality against Reading, but also passed the ball into touch a few times as well. He’s still young and is still learning, but it would be good to see him connect a few more times with his passes, rather than just tackle the opposing forward and turn the ball back over.
Gaetano Berardi will likely get the start at right back, with Vurnon Anita getting the start on the left side. Tom Pearce might make an appearance in the next few weeks, and I would start him, but I’m not Heckingbottom, so who knows who is likely to get the start. If I had to guess, it would be Anita.
Bailey Peacock-Farrell is continuing to reward his coach’s faith in him, as he’s been a good player in between the pipes for Leeds since being introduced a few weeks back. He’s still learning, and it’s entirely likely that he might have a meltdown and a match to forget soon, but given the lack of fit or in form strikers for Wednesday, this will likely not be the match to see him have a bad game.
Predicted Score: This match should have been about jockeying for playoff positioning, but instead Leeds look safe and will be looking to get momentum towards next season, with the players looking to justify their position and their contracts.
By contrast, Sheffield Wednesday are looking to rebound enough to be certain to avoid relegation, however, given the general awfulness put on display by Sunderland, Burton Albion, and Birmingham City, among others, the Owls will likely be safe this year and have to deal with the FFP reaper in the summer. In the meantime, things don’t seem to be going in the right direction in South Yorkshire, and hopefully Heckingbottom can get his players up for a derby match and pounce on the opposition and get a good result. 3-1 Leeds.
Leeds United: (4-2-3-1) Peacock-Farrell; Berardi, Pennington, Jansson, Anita; Forshaw, O’Kane; Alioski, Saiz, Hernandez; Lasogga.
Sheffield Wednesday: (3-5-2) Westwood; Van Aken, Lees, Venâncio; Boyd, Bannan, Reach, Clare, Hunt; Nuhlu, João