THOMAS CHRISTIANSEN set Leeds United the target of remaining at the top of the Championship during the forthcoming international break after a resilient win over Ipswich Town sent the club into a challenging week of away games.
A satisfied Christiansen said a 3-2 victory against Ipswich at Elland Road on Saturday had set his players up for back-to-back trips to Cardiff City and Sheffield Wednesday as he looked for “two good results” to keep Leeds at the front of the Championship field.
United have led the division for the past fortnight and the club are locked in a tie with Cardiff and Wolverhampton Wanderers, both of whom hold 20 points after wins over Sunderland and Barnsley respectively.
Christiansen’s side will go head-to-head with Neil Warnock’s Cardiff in Wales tomorrow before travelling to Hillsborough for Sunday’s Yorkshire derby against Sheffield Wednesday, a side who lie ninth and have reached the play-offs in both of the last two seasons.
The Championship term will halt for its second international break after United’s meeting with Wednesday.
Leeds have lost only once this season, away at Millwall last weekend, and Christiansen was pleased to see many of the players involved in that one-sided loss redeem the result with a committed display against Ipswich.
“The response was good and the result was better,” Christiansen said. “All games have pressure but of course, the home game against Ipswich was important to make sure we go to Cardiff in the best condition.
“Confidence is also important and the three points but Cardiff will be a different game, another tough game against a strong and physical team, another top team. We need two good results now to maintain our position.”
Christiansen left Pontus Jansson out of his defence on Saturday, opting to tread cautiously after the Sweden international pulled a leg muscle at Millwall.
Jansson failed to make the bench but is likely to start away at Cardiff after a 10-day recovery period. “He’s fit but I decided to leave him out,” Christiansen said.
The centre-back, who resumed training on Friday, insisted he was hopeful of returning tomorrow, telling Swedish website Fotbollskanalen: “There is less risk on Tuesday, probably I can play then. I hope so.”
United were able to recall captain Liam Cooper, who missed the defeat at Millwall with a back injury, while youngster Conor Shaughnessy was used again by Christiansen in the centre of defence against Ipswich.
Pierre-Michel Lasogga and Kalvin Phillips gave Leeds a 2-1 advantage at half-time before Pablo Hernandez’s corner - conceded through a bad error from Ipswich goalkeeper Bartosz Bialkowski - provided the breathing space needed to resist a late fightback from Mick McCarthy’s side.
Lasogga’s 13th-minute opener was his third goal in four starts since moving to Leeds on loan from Hamburg last month.
Leeds recruited him after losing Chris Wood to Burnley, a move aimed at compensating for Wood’s prolific form last season, and the German took his first chance with a low shot after Shaughnessy’s through-ball opened up the Ipswich defence.
The 25-year-old remained in England and played in Saturday’s match despite the birth of his first child, a girl, in Hamburg on Friday night. He flew home to Germany after the Ipswich win.
“He’s a goal-getter,” Christiansen said. “When he gets the opportunities he seems to put them in and that’s a good thing. It’s a good thing that we have him and he’s having success in front of goal.”