After an international break that was once again pretty uninspiring, Leeds United return to action with a bang on Sunday as Newcastle United visit Elland Road for a blockbuster of a fixture.
A capacity crowd at Elland Road seemed to be a thing of the past given the club’s recent history of mediocrity and mismanagement, but with things seemingly on the up both on and off the pitch, the rafters will be ringing for the visit of Rafa Benitez’s high-flying Magpies.
Every expert and fan in the country totally expects Newcastle to run away with the Championship this season. The quality of their squad is incredible for this level, a fact helped by the parachute money they have earned for last season’s relegation which has enabled them to run on a Premier League budget.
The size of the club has seen them able to attract players from some of the smaller teams in the top flight, with the promise that dropping down a division is almost certainly a temporary state of affairs. They are already sitting atop the table and are expected to stay there.
Leeds, on the other hand, are seemingly punching above their weight this season. Many of the same experts tipping Newcastle for the title were predicting another season of struggle for the Whites, and, as we know, the early signs were that they were not going to be wrong.
However Garry Monk has laid the foundations for something good to happen at Elland Road this season, but we must remember that they are the first part of the building process and that we are far from the finished article.
For that reason, I see Sunday’s match as a no lose situation. First of all, the ground will be rocking. After hearing so much about our brilliant support over the years, it will be nice for the rest of the country to actually see Elland Road when it is full and it is rocking, rather than being half empty and echoing to the noises of the past. Our current team have spoken about how good the atmosphere has been this season. Sunday afternoon will blow their socks off.
Secondly, the result on the pitch doesn’t really matter. Everyone will be expecting Newcastle to win, so if they do we will be in no worse a position than before the game. As long as the team show the effort and desire they have in recent weeks, the confidence should still be there for the more winnable games still to be won.
However, if we win then imagine the self-belief which will flow through both fans and players. It could be a real launching pad to reach for the stars and push for promotion. Those of my age will fondly remember a game against Newcastle in December 1989.
It was a point when Leeds made a real statement about their credentials for promotion back to the top flight. Personally, this weekend it will be how we perform and not the result which will be what I will be looking at. Win, lose or draw we should just enjoy the occasion and, hopefully, it will be the first of many big games to look forward to in the months and years to come.
Prediction: Leeds United 1 Newcastle United 2.
Proper football returns after the internationals with a cracker against Newcastle United at Elland Road in front of a full house.
Rafa’s tenure at the helm didn’t stop relegation but the cheque book was used during the summer. Gayle from Crystal Palace, Ritchie from Bournemouth were proof they were intent on not staying in the Championship for longer than a season. Their impressive recent form and top spot in the division gave Rafa the October manager of the month award.
Hopefully Garry Monk’s international players will ave come through their exploits unscathed; Pontus Jansson, Eunan O’Kane and Chris Wood all playing minutes for their respective nations. Both Bridcutt and Dallas could be absent and O’Kane had been sent home with a hamstring injury, so Kalvin Phillips and Ronaldo Vieira could be the sitting midfielders with Pablo Hernandez in his usual no10 role. The rest of the team basically picks itself these days.
These games are what you pay good money to see, top of the table playing a form side in the top six, backed by over 30,000 home voices.
I’d be happy with a point, but a win would be marvellous. The sell-out crowd is a clear indication that Leeds fans have started to believe in what Monk and his squad are doing.
Prediction: Leeds United 2 Newcastle United 2.
Seven wins in a row speaks for itself. The Magpies are firm title favourites. But Leeds have hit form just at the right time and Garry Monk is doing a great job managing the burgeoning expectation of fans. This one really is too close to call.
Prediction: Leeds United 1 Newcastle United 1.
Despite live TV coverage the ‘sold out’ signs went up for this game around three weeks ago as bang-in-form Leeds United entertain Championship leaders Newcastle United on Sunday lunchtime.
A raucous atmosphere is guaranteed as Garry Monk pits his wits against Rafael Benitez in a mouthwatering fixture that will prove a stern test of United’s promotion credentials.
Let’s hope Eunane O’Kane has recovered from his injury as his experience could be invaluable alongside the promising youngsters against the visitors’ numerous ‘moneybags’ stars.
A win would bring the house down.
However, I’m expecting a draw and a few goals to boot.
Prediction: Leeds United 2 Newcastle United 2.
Watching Leeds lately has been a bit like watching a high jumper reaching ever greater heights; each game that comes seems to be that little bit tougher than the previous one.
The Toon in front of a full house will be another measure of just how high we can go.
By most assessments they are the best in class. But in the form tables for the last 10 games Leeds are just three points behind them and since we ditched the 4-4-2 formation we have been a difficult side to beat. If Bridcutt and Dallas are still not fit and assuming everyone else is injury free, then the only question is which two out of Roofe, Sacko and Doukara will start. If Leeds continue to work hard then a draw ought to be achievable.
Prediction: Leeds United 0 Newcastle United 0.