Date: 3 April 2018
Time: 19.45 BST, 2.45 PM EDT
Venue: Craven Cottage
Television: Sky TV, beIN Sports 2 Australia & New Zealand.
Radio: BBC Radio Leeds (not available online)
All-time Record: Leeds United v Fulham 22W 15D 17L
Reverse Fixture: Leeds United 0 - 0 Fulham
Leeds travel to West London today to take on Fulham at Craven Cottage, in a match that could have a big impact on the playoffs. Well, not for Leeds anyway.
Fulham have gone a remarkable 17 matches without a loss, and given the way the two teams have performed since the turn of the year, Fulham fans will be excited to see the Leeds United team bus pull up outside the ground. Leeds have been in dire form, only winning twice since Boxing Day while Fulham have been chasing Cardiff City for the second automatic promotion spot behind Wolverhampton. At the very least, Fulham has almost certainly done enough to earn a spot in the playoffs.
The two teams last met back in August, when everything was rosy and wonderful for the Whites. Fulham struggled to get out of the gate a little bit, given their strong finish to last season, when they came from behind to nick a playoff spot from a floundering Leeds side.
No revenge will be possible for Leeds this season, as while the playoff dream isn’t officially dead for Leeds, in all practicality Leeds are already planning for next season, with players looking to justify their contracts and a place in next year’s squad.
Fulham, on the other hand, are playing to keep their high-priced stars at the club. With the amount of talent on their squad, a failure to make the Premier League would certainly see the club be forced to move a number of their star players, with Ryan Sessegnon almost certainly in for a big-money move to the Premier League.
Leeds will likely start with a similar lineup to the one that won against Bolton Wanderers last time out at Elland Road, and not just because Paul Heckingbottom likes to ride a winning hand. Leeds are without the services of seven different first-team players because of injury, meaning that the amount of options for squad rotations are almost non-existent for Heckingbottom.
Up front, the duo of Pierre-Michel Lasogga and Caleb Ekuban will likely get the nod again. Ekuban finally scored a goal in the Championship, but he could have had another two goals if his finishing was half as good as Lasogga’s. Of course, his finishing isn’t as good, which is why he was playing in the Albanian league last season.
On the wing, Pablo Hernandez and Gjanni Alioski will likely get the start again, with Samu Saiz saved as a second-half substitute. Alioski will be needed on the right to help contain Sessegnon going forward, with Stuart Dallas also a possibility to get the start.
Ronaldo Vieira vs. Bolton:— LUFCDATA (@LUFCDATA) March 30, 2018
71% pass accuracy
4 accurate long balls
4 tackles won
4 aerial duels won
1 chance created
Huge improvement today. #LUFC pic.twitter.com/UWu8lI7AjE
In the centre of midfield, both Ronaldo Vieira and Eunan O’Kane are likely to get the start. Vieira was back to his old, dominate self in the middle of the pitch against Bolton. It was a good sign to see Vieira play as well as he did, given that Forshaw could miss the rest of the season. Vieira has been plagued by fitness and injury problems all season, so does this mean that he’s in the clear for the rest of the season? Hopefully it does.
In defence, Pontus Jansson and Matthew Pennington will have their work cut out for them today. Aleksandar Mitrović, who is on-loan at Fulham from Newcastle United, has been a brilliant January addition to the team, as he’s scored about a million goals for the West London club. Containing him will be a tall task, and it’s time to see if Pennington can step up and be a full-time player in the Championship next season. If the club are serious about retaining him, he has to prove that he’s going to be able to take a giant step forward, and this match will certainly go a long ways towards determining that.
Gaetano Berardi will be used at right back, as he’s the best defensive fullback at the club right now, and he’ll be asked to counter Sessegnon. Stuart Dallas could feature at left back, but Tom Pearce might yet work his way back into the lineup.
In goal, Bailey Peacock-Farrell has made the position his own and will certainly get the start.
Fulham were built to make another run at the Premier League, and with the loan addition of Mitrović, they have looked unstoppable. Maybe the Leeds of August or September would have had a chance to beat them, and the Leeds of December certainly would have tested them. However, we have the Leeds of 2018 playing tonight, and that Leeds will almost certainly lose this match in comedic fashion. 3-0 to Fulham, and it won’t even be that close.
Leeds United: (4-4-2) Peacock-Farrell; Berardi, Jansson, Pennington, Pearce; Alioski, O’Kane, Vieira, Hernandez; Ekuban, Lasogga
Fulham: (4-3-3) Bettinelli; Targett, Ream, Odol, Fredricks; Johansen, McDonald, Cairney; Sessegnon, Mitrović, Plazón