The inside track on Leeds United - with weaknesses exposed and an injury boost revealed
Middlesbrough travel to Elland Road this evening to face Leeds United in a battle of the early Championship pace-setters. Ahead of the televised clash, we spoke to Joe Urquhart from the Yorkshire Evening Post to get the inside track on Middlesbrough. This is what he had to say...
How well have Leeds United been playing recently?
Marcelo Bielsa's side have probably been playing some of the best football Leeds fans have seen since relegation from the top flight 14 years ago. The high press and intense style has seen the Whites overwhelm many of the teams they have come up against.
Similarly to Middlesbrough Leeds are unbeaten in the league having won four and drawn one this season. A defeat to Preston in the Carabao Cup on Tuesday was unexpected but there were nine changes made by the Argentine in a game that United lacked the same cohesion they have displayed in the Championship.
Who have been Leeds United’s key players this season, and what should we expect to see from them?
This is a tricky one... who hasn't? Leeds have seen a number of last season's under performers step up to the plate this year. Kemar Roofe, Pablo Hernandez and Samuel Saiz are a trio Middlesbrough should be wary of.
Roofe has four goals in five league games and the Spanish duo of Hernandez and Saiz have been wreaking havoc for defences so far - an honourable mention for Kalvin Phillips too who is an intergeral part of Bielsa's 4-1-4-1 formation, expect to see the deep lying midfielder slot into the centre of defence as wing-backs Barry Douglas and Luke Ayling get forward.
What kind of line-up should fans expect to see when Leeds take on Middlesbrough? Are there are any injury doubts or selection headaches?
As just mentioned, Bielsa opts for a 4-1-4-1 formation in the Championship and is expected to stick to his guns against Middlesbrough. It is a very fluid system which allows players a lot of freedom to take up positions you may not normally see them in. Luke Ayling, Leeds' right-back, has been the one who has really thrived in this becoming a key attacking player down the right hand side.
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United skipper and central defender Liam Cooper could feature after two weeks out with a hamstring injury and he has been a key part of Leeds' play from the back this season. His aerial presence was missed during the 2-2 draw at Swansea City but fellow defender Pontus Jansson has filled in alongside Gaetano Berardi who has put in performances in the centre of defence with maturity following a poor discipline record last season at wing-back.
Are there are any noticeable weak links which Middlesbrough will be looking to exploit?
One area that Middlesbrough could look to exploit is in fact Berardi's height. The Swiss struggled to deal with Oli McBurnie's presence as the striker scored two goals against Leeds last week and if selected is certainly an area Tony Pulis' men could exploit with their route one style.
What kind of home support should we expect to see turn out at Elland Road?
Elland Road is expected to be at near capacity on Friday night with nearly 35,000 set to make the trip to LS11.
Prediction time! What kind of game are you expecting when Leeds take on Middlesbrough and what do you think the final score will be?
I think it will be a tight affair with lots of big challenges as both teams are roared on by their support. If Middlesbrough can deal with the opening 10 or 15 minutes of 'Bielsa ball' then there is no reason why they couldn't get a result. Leeds will have to be at their best to breakdown Pulis' side but I can see a 1-0 victory for the home side.
Is there anything else that Middlesbrough fans should know about Leeds?
Watch out for the bucket!