Bottom of the table Stoke City, having barely had time to recover from their miserable 3-1 defeat away at Preston North End, have had a turbulent start to 2019/20. Nathan Jones’ side (then under Gary Rowett) were favourites to win the league at the start of 2018/19, before having their hopes shattered by a newly valiant and determined Leeds United, beating them 3-1 at Elland Road on the debut of the new season. Recovery from this fall from grace doesn’t seem to have occurred yet and the Potters have been teetering around the relegation zone indefinitely for the last year. Stoke are yet to win a league match this season and James McClean’s 89th minute goal at Deepdale on Wednesday did little to change the trajectory of the game.
Conversely, Leeds United managed to cinch a definitive victory against Brentford; a team whose clashes have proved historically difficult for Leeds and became only more fraught thanks to their shock signing of ex-Leeds cult hero, Sweden centre-back Pontus Jansson. An 81st minute cross by Wolverhampton loanee Helder Costa, straight into the path of Arsenal youngster Eddie Nketiah, gave the Whites a crucial win but arguably more crucially gave Eddie a goal on his Elland Road debut, paving the way for a cult following for the 20 year old striker. He’s got high-profile fans from all over the footballing world, even as far as Ian Wright! The football pundit and ex-Crystal Palace and Arsenal forward certainly hasn’t shown any vocal support for Leeds until Nketiah turned up.
Looking ahead to Saturday’s tie at the Bet365 Stadium (doesn’t quite roll off the tongue like the Britannia Stadium, does it?), all signs point towards Leeds cinching an uncontested victory. However, though Marcelo Bielsa initially said he will field an unchanged side from the Bees victory, then contradicting himself to say defenders Stuart Dallas and Liam Cooper could be left off the squad due to injury concerns. This leaves room for Switzerland International Gaetano Berardi in the centre-back role and England youngster Jamie Shackleton at right-back. There’s no question about the fact the win against Brentford was not a straightforward one, play was scrappy and disjointed at times. The hope is that Leeds can recreate some of the beauty from the 5th August 2018 fixture and entrench their position at the top of the league.