Date: 10 March 2018
Time: 15.00 GMT, 10.00 AM EST
Venue: Madejski Stadium
Radio: BBC Radio Leeds (not available online)
All-time Record: Leeds United v Reading 9W 8D 8L
Reverse Fixture: Leeds United 0 - 1 Reading
Leeds face Reading after having lost two straight games for the second time this season. Back in October, when the Leeds faithful had hope for promotion, Reading came to Elland Road and nicked a 1-0 win over Leeds behind a Mo Barrow winner late in the match. This time, Leeds travel to Reading after a pair of ugly losses to Middlesbrough and Wolverhampton.
The only saving grace for Leeds might be that Reading is also suffering through a similar loss of form. Like Leeds, Reading have only won once in the Championship since the first of the year, but unlike Leeds, Reading have stuck with Jaap Stam.
So the movable object will be facing off the resistible force, as neither team seems especially able to score or stop goals at the moment. Leeds have yet to see any real benefit from sacking Thomas Christiansen, and while Paul Heckingbottom has talked a good game about dropping players for poor play, there hasn’t really been a lot of changes since he took over at Elland Road.
Heckingbottom on whether BPF will keep his place against Reading: "Possibly. I thought he was pretty calm in the game." #lufc— Phil Hay (@PhilHayYEP) March 8, 2018
The one change that absolutely had to be made, however, was the benching Felix Wiedwald, Wiedwald went through a similar crisis in confidence earlier in the season, and Christiansen dropped him for a few matches, only to recall him later in the season. Wiedwald played well in December, but whatever talent he had back in August and December left him in February, and the match against Boro seemed to be the final straw. Bailey Peacock-Farrell was brought in against Wolves on Wednesday, and the 21 year-old prospect played pretty decently. Was it enough to retain the starting position against Reading? Almost certainly. Will Peacock-Farrell be good enough to be the full-time keeper next season? Doubtful, but he’s been handed a chance on a silver platter, and if he wants to stay with the big club, he’d best take it.
Pierre-Michel Lasogga could have been kidnapped by aliens during the Wolverhampton match and it wouldn’t have made of a difference, as little of the ball he saw during the match. The three central defender formation that Wolves use meant that Lasogga had the defence collapse on him every time he got near the ball, and the attack for Leeds was left impotent.
Reading used the same formation in the last match against Leeds, but with a number of key players out with injury, they might be forced to use a back four. Heckingbottom could play with two strikers, pulling either Kemar Roofe, if he’s fit, or Caleb Ekuban into the starting lineup, but that doesn’t really leave a position for Samu Saiz. Expect to see the same 4-2-3-1 with Lasogga as the lone striker and Saiz playing behind him in the number 10.
On the wings, Heckingbottom tried to change it up against Wolves by having Hadi Sacko start on the wing. Sacko was hauled off at half-time for Pablo Hernandez, and that might be the last time we see Sacko in a Leeds shirt, if we’re lucky. If Hernandez is fit, he should start on the wing. Stuart Dallas has been a Heckingbottom favourite, and despite his less-than-inspiring performance in the midweek match, he’ll almost certainly get he start. Tom Pearce might be seen in the lineup soon, but if he does appear, it’ll likely be as a sub.
Heckingbottom admitted that his central midfield players have been inconsistent and that area hasn't worked well enough. Thinks they all have the capacity to play well but need to find a reliable level. #lufc— Phil Hay (@PhilHayYEP) March 8, 2018
Adam Forshaw has been a rock in the middle of the pitch for Leeds, and he’ll likely get the start once again. Along with him, Ronaldo Vieira has to get the start eventually, right? Vieira has apparently been battling tendinitis in his knee all season, so if he needs rest, his absence is explainable. Vieira’s form looked off for a number of weeks during the winter, and he might be getting an extended period of rest.
If Vieira’s left on the bench, Kalvin Phillips or Eunan O’Kane could get the start, with Phillips at least being a young player in need of match time. I’m not sure what to do with O’Kane, as he’s looked awful for weeks now. So Phillips will start alongside Forshaw if Vieira is still rested, and expect him to get slaughtered on Twitter after the match if he keeps playing like he has been.
Liam Cooper has a dead leg. Needs a scan so he's unlikely to feature at Reading. #lufc— Phil Hay (@PhilHayYEP) March 8, 2018
Liam Cooper was taken off injured against Wolves, and appears to be a doubt for the Reading match. Matthew Pennington had a few dodgy moments after coming on, but he calmed down and played pretty decently. Pennington, once again, has a chance to claim a spot in the starting lineup alongside Pontus Jansson, but will he once again fail to take his chance?
As for the fullbacks, Gaetano Berardi and Vurnon Anita seemed to be the preferred pair at the moment. Laurens De Bock should find his way back into the lineup at some point to see if his performance against Derby County was a fluke, or if he really can’t handle playing fullback in the Championship. Tyler Denton should get a run as well, if for no other reason that there is very little to lose by playing him, but with Pennington and Peacock-Farrell playing, Heckingbottom is likely to stick with his veterans.
Bailey Peacock-Farrell played well enough to get another start as keeper for Leeds this weekend. Will he be good enough to carry the load the rest of the way? Maybe, but he’s got an opportunity. Let’s see if he takes it.
Both teams are struggling right now, so I’m very tempted to say a soul-destroying 0-0 draw. However, I think Leeds will pull off a victory, just in time for it to not mean anything in the race for the playoffs. 1-0 Leeds.
Leeds United: (4-2-3-1) Peacock-Farrell; Anita, Pennington, Jansson, Berardi; Forshaw, Phillips; Dallas, Saiz, Hernandez; Lasogga
Reading: (4-2-3-1) Jaakkola, Gunter, Moore, Holmes, Clement; Evans, Edwards; Barrow, Kelly, Aluko; Martin