The YEP jury have their say ahead of Leeds United’s clash with Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park.
After the irritation of the international break, Leeds United return to centre stage, backed by the largest travelling support in the Football League so far this season.
It says a lot for the loyalty of the Whites support that with Christmas on the horizon, there has been little hesitation in almost 7,000 supporters dipping their hands into their pockets to pay the inflated £33 that Blackburn Rovers have seen fit to charge, a 20 per cent hike on their normal ticket price for visiting supporters.
With a £250K payday on the horizon, Blackburn could not begrudge Leeds picking up the three points tomorrow, but things are never that easy. Rovers are unbeaten in seven and lie just outside the play-off places, with Derby County the only visitors to win at Ewood Park in the Championship this season.
Unusually it isn’t Jordan Rhodes who is top gun at Blackburn this season, his five goals only half the tally of his striking partner Rudy Gestede. Those two will provide a real test for United’s centre-backs, and it is here that Neil Redfearn faces a tough decision.
Liam Cooper has been impeccable in the last two matches, covering consecutive suspensions for Jason Pearce and Giuseppe Bellusci, and would be the first name pencilled in the back four for this weekend’s match. Redfearn has to chose between his skipper and the madcap Italian to play alongside the summer signing from Chesterfield.
Bellusci’s performances have verged from the sublime to the ridiculous since his arrival in the summer, for every free-kick and chip off the bar, there have been stupid fouls and baffling mistakes. Pearce is the more solid citizen and would get the nod from me.
That is just one of a few selection dilemmas for United’s head coach, an indication of the size of the squad at his disposal. It is vital, if Leeds are to progress this season, that there is some continuity in team selection and hopefully over the coming weeks we will see Redfearn establish his best XI, and bring some much needed stability to what has been a turbulent season so far.
There are two thirds of the season remaining, and the final weeks of 2014 will give us a good indication of whether we will be pushing for the top six or looking over our shoulders in 2015. Despite hopes to be upwardly mobile, I fear that any move forward will not start for a couple of weeks at least. It will be a grand day out, but not a great result.
Prediction: Blackburn 2 Leeds United 1.
This weekend brings a ‘Battle of the Roses’ between two teams who have had differing seasons thus far.
Blackburn sit just outside the top six, while United have struggled after numerous changes off the field. For me the season starts here.
Neil Redfearn will hope that after the two weeks international break he will have instilled in the players his way of playing and they are ready for a difficult game at Ewood Park, they will be buoyed by the incredible away support there, nearly seven thousand will be in the away stand.
Redfearn’s team picks itself at the moment, the only position that could be under discussion will be a partner for Jason Pearce. Bellusci was suspended versus Blackpool but Liam Cooper did enough to keep his place for me. I’m hoping that a settled side will bring a upturn in results, the midfield four of Cook, Mowatt, Bianchi and Adyran will have to be at their best. I’m confident that they’ll get the first away win since September tomorrow.
Prediction: Blackburn Rovers 1 Leeds United 2.
Back to the reality of league football and a trip over the Pennines to play a Blackburn team who nearly got in the play-offs last season. But with 7,000 Leeds fans making their way over, you just never know what might happen. I can see us grinding out three points.
Prediction: Blackburn 0 Leeds United 1.
Finally, Championship football is back and there is no better way than a Yorkshire/Lancashire clash.
The international break came at the wrong time for us. We had a great win against Blackpool and seemed to be finding some form. Hopefully they worked hard over the two weeks off and they come back fresher than ever. We never seem to play well at Ewood Park but with our new look side, I am confident of coming away with all three points. I don’t think there will be any changes from the side that beat Blackpool but I really want to see Billy Sharp have a run out. Let’s hope for three points to send the travelling faithful home happy.
Prediction: Blackburn 0 Leeds United 1.
BLACKBURN are unbeaten since September and boast the division’s joint top goalscorer in Rudy Gestede so will be a stern test. However United will be backed by just under 7,000 loyal hordes at Ewood Park. I’m expecting an entertaining game with plenty of goals to boot.
Prediction: Blackburn 3 Leeds United 3.
The sizeable Leeds contingent at Ewood Park will be expecting that we can pick up where we left off against Blackpool and, with a relatively calm fortnight, Neil Redfearn will be hoping he has further embedded the vision he has for his young team.
Our away form has been very poor so far but hopefully with Rodolph Austin back to add a bit of strength in midfield and the likes of Adryan and Doukara growing in confidence, we should be going to places like Blackburn and taking the game to the home side.Ultimately it will be United’s ability to pick up points on the road that determines whether the team progresses up the league.
prediction: Blackburn 1 Leeds United 2.