Match: Preston North End v Leeds United
Date: 10 April 2018
Time: 19.45 BST, 2.45 PM EDT
Venue: Deepdale, Preston
Radio: BBC Radio Leeds (not available online)
All-time Record: Leeds United v Preston North End 20W 12D 23L
Reverse Fixture: Leeds United 0 - 0 Preston
Leeds United and Preston last met back in August, and at that point, one of the two teams looked to be in the running for the playoffs. Leeds were frustrated by Preston in the last match at Elland Road. Even after the visitors were reduced to 10 men, Leeds were unable to break through and score a goal, and that was when Leeds were playing good football.
Preston, on the other hand, sold Jordan Hugill to West Ham United in January and hasn’t skipped a beat, continuing to grind out results. Preston currently sit in 11th place, six points out of the playoff places and have only one once in the last five matches while losing four. Of course, Leeds are in equally bad form, having one only once in the last five matches as well, although Leeds did grab two draws.
The playoffs might be out of reach for Preston, however, they will be looking forward to a home match against one team that’s been worse than they have over the last six matches. The Leeds team may have some of the young players we’ve all heard so much about all season, as Leeds will be missing up to nine (!) senior players through injury or suspension.
Up front, the match against Sunderland saw the return of Pierre-Michel Lasogga to the lineup and while the service could have been better, Lasogga did himself no favours in regards to a potential transfer to the Premier League with his display on Saturday. Caleb Ekuban might get the start instead, although Kemar Roofe, who is finally back after being out through injury, might get the start up front instead. At this point, Roofe needs to either prove that he belongs in the discussion as a potential starter at striker for Leeds or the club needs to evaluate options for him.
In the midfield, with Samu Saiz available, Leeds will probably play with two wingers and an attacking midfielder, with Saiz starting between Pablo Hernandez and Gjanni Alioski. If Hernandez plays like he did against Sunderland, and Saiz can hit something besides the post, Leeds might be able to get a result in Lancashire. Alioski also hit the post against Sunderland, and he needs to find his scoring boots again before the season is over.
In central midfield, with Forshaw and O’Kane both injured, Kalvin Phillips and Ronaldo Vieira will almost certainly get the start. Neither had a fantastic match against Sunderland, but Vieira is starting to play like the player we all remember from last year again. Hopefully he turns that on again against PNE later today.
On defence, Paul Heckingbottom is faced with a dilemma. Leeds stand-in captain and only fit senior fullback on the roster Gaetano Berardi (Vurnon Anita is not a fullback) is out for the rest of the season after getting a daft red card against Sunderland. That leaves Tom Pearce as the only true fullback who has appeared this season on defence. While Heckingbottom has seemed loathe to start more than one “kid” at a time in the back, he may be forced to use Pearce and either Anita or Stuart Dallas as the fullbacks.
Missing from u23 today and therefore maybe involved against Preston:— Ryan Pinnick (@RPlufc93) April 9, 2018
Denton, Struijk, Diaz, Nicell, Clarke, Stevens #lufc
With injuries to Conor Shaughnessy, Liam Cooper, and Matthew Pennington, Leeds will be almost certainly be forced to start Paudie O’Connor and Pontus Jansson at centre back. Pascal Struijk, who transfered to Leeds from Ajax in the January transfer window also missed Monday’s U23 match against Millwall, leading to speculation that he might feature, at least on the bench, against Preston.
In goal, Bailey Peacock-Farrell was the man of the match against Sunderland, and has so far proven he belongs in the discussion to be the full-time keeper next season.
Leeds need a good win in the worst way, and if Preston have any chance whatsoever to grab a spot in the playoffs, they need this win as well. Leeds will finally be starting the “kids” on defence, and this will be a tougher test than against Sunderland, as Preston are a more physical team that won’t shy away from contact and will look to get the ball into the box early and often from crosses and long balls. However, this is a perfect chance for Leeds to show up and nick a late win against a team that is hard to break down. But that won’t happen, who are we kidding? 1-1 draw.
Leeds United: (4-2-3-1) Peacock-Farrell; Dallas, O’Connor, Jansson, Pearce; Vieira, Phillips; Hernandez, Saiz, Alioski; Roofe
Preston: (4-2-3-1) Rudd; Cunningham, Davies, Huntington, Fisher; Pearson, Browne; Bodin, Robinson, Barkhuizen; Moult