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Match Preview: Leeds United v Middlesbrough

Leeds are heavy favourites for this one - but will it be as easy as some think?

Middlesbrough v Leeds United - Sky Bet Championship Photo by MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Match: Leeds United v Middlesbrough

Date: 30th November

Time: 15.00 GMT, 10.00 ET, 07.00 PST.

Venue: Elland Road, Leeds, West Yorkshire, England

Streaming: iFollow, LUTV (outside the UK).

Leeds United welcome struggling Middlesbrough to Elland Road as they look to build on their run of four consecutive wins.

Marcelo Bielsa is not one to change a winning team but he will be forced into a change as Wales international Tyler Roberts is out with a hamstring injury. He will most likely be replaced by Helder Costa with Pablo Hernandez moving into a more central role, something which worked well at the end of the match against Reading FC.

Reading v Leeds United - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Andrew Kearns - CameraSport via Getty Images

In Leeds u23s 2-1 win over Sheffield United earlier today (report from Leeds website here), England youth internationals Jamie Shackleton and Eddie Nketiah both played 45 minutes to continue their comebacks from injury. They could therefore make the bench tomorrow, although I don’t expect that to be the case for Nketiah.

There have also been calls among the fanbase for Poland youth international Mateusz Bogusz to make the bench, as he could potentially play in the role vacated by Roberts. I don’t expect it to happen as he played 90 minutes today but he did himself no harm with his winning goal today.

Middlesbrough have something of an injury crisis. Right-back Afernee Dijksteel is definitely out, as is winger Marvin Johnson.

Added to this are previous injuries to Marcus Browne, Ryan Shotton, and George Friend. Finally they are definitely without Republic of Ireland international goalkeeper Darren Randolph, who will be deputised by 21-year-old Aynsley Pears.

Switzerland v Republic of Ireland - UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifier Photo by RvS.Media/Robert Hradil/Getty Images

The Smoggies also have doubts over Northern Ireland international Paddy McNair, and DR Congo striker Britt Assombalonga is rated as 50/50.

Following a 1-0 win over Reading on 14th September Middlesbrough went on a run of 10 matches without a win, but that run came to an end with a 1-0 win against Barnsley on Wednesday night.

Despite this win, former Real Madrid defender Jonathan Woodgate is still under massive pressure as manager on Teesside, so we may see an odd situation where he is more popular with the Leeds fans than with the team he is managing. Woodgate is well liked at Leeds having come through the Whites academy and played 142 times before moving on to Newcastle United, Real Madrid, Middlesbrough (twice), Tottenham Hotspur and Stoke City.

Jonathan Woodgate and Milan Baros Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Middlesbrough have been consistently lining up in a 3-5-2 formation, even more confusingly they have been using former Leeds midfielder Jonny Howson as the right-centre-back of the three.

This adherence to playing two up-top will mean Leeds are likely to line up in their 3-3-3-1 formation once again, as they have in their last two outings. I still think Leeds are not as fluid in this formation as they are in 4-1-4-1 but they are improving in this regard. The games where the formations have lined up like I expect have tended to not be the best spectacles this season,

There is a more detailed tactical preview available from the excellent ‘All Stats Aren’t We’ available here and in the Twitter thread below.

Leeds expected line-up (3-3-3-1): Casilla; Ayling, White, Cooper; Dallas, Phillips, Klich; Costa, Hernandez, Harrison; Bamford

Middlesbrough expected line-up (3-5-2): Pears; Howson, Ayala, Fry; Saville, Wing, McNair, Tavernier, Coulson; Fletcher, Assombalonga.

Obviously, Boro’s line-up could be heavily affected by injuries. However, regardless of who is fit Leeds should have enough to win this one. We have been on the right side of a couple of late goals lately but I think this one we will have an earlier goal. This should bring Boro out a bit and I fancy the extra space to give Leeds chances. It is still us though so I don’t expect lots of goals.

Prediction: 2-0 Leeds.