David Prutton: Victory over Derby County would finally banish play-offs ghosts
LEEDS UNITED needed a reaction from the defeat to Swansea City in Sunday’s clash at Barnsley and they got it.
Swansea – who had gone top by beating Leeds – also lost to Nottingham Forest so from a United point of view it was the perfect weekend and a perfect response.
The pressure was on them to go to Barnsley and get the win to put them top after Saturday’s fixtures and they did exactly that with Eddie Nketiah on the scoresheet again and a nerveless penalty from Mateusz Klich.
That all bodes really well going into today’s clash against Derby County at Elland Road which is going to be not just a grudge match with regards to where both teams want to finish, but also recent history sets up it very, very nicely.
If you were a part of the Leeds team that lost May’s play-off semi final to Derby then it’s on your mind to put it right.
It’s a league game and not a play-offs semi-final but Leeds can lay some ghosts to rest from what was their last game of the campaign against a team that they had shown how to beat rather comprehensively earlier on in the season.
They need to put that to rest and it would be a step in the right direction for Marcelo Bielsa and his team to know that little fence has been climbed over in the sense of putting that to bed.
But over the course of the season it’s also an important game for the sake of those three points.
Leeds are now odds on favourites to win the division and we said at the start of the season that they would go into it as favourites because of what they did last season.
The way they are approaching these games is ticking a lot of boxes because they are not conceding too many chances and also creating loads at the other end.
The next step is to make sure they convert these chances, to make themselves as prolific as possible, but they have got a bit more room to move laterally now with regards to how they beat the opposition.
You could almost say they have gone up a gear but that’s hard to do as when they are at their absolute pressing best it’s a sight to behold. Leeds are quite rightly favourites because of what they did last season but the odds are forever changing and they are mobile.
They are reactive to what we have seen so far and Leeds lost to Swansea but have them come back to sit at the top of the league.
That’s where you would feel they would want to be – out in front of the pack with everyone chasing them down but that’s where the real pressure comes in to ensure that you stay there.
Of the biggest potential threats to Leeds, Fulham are second favourites and when I saw Swansea up close and personal I thought they were very impressive but it was slightly different with regards to how the game went at Elland Road.
Leeds dominated proceedings but a very late goal was the one that took Swansea away with all three points.
I’m looking forward to seeing West Bromwich Albion on Sunday when they play Huddersfield Town and seeing what they have got to offer and Charlton Athletic have done fantastically well coming back into the division.
Bristol City are another one and a team that tends to have streaks but they have started off on a very good streak and I think quietly they will have ambitions to be in the mix come the end of the season.
And then Preston North End are possibly the ones who will operate under the radar.
I think from all of them, you would have to say that from what we have seen in recent seasons that looking at the top six possibly Leeds and West Brom stand out but looking a bit further down Nottingham Forest are putting a good run together under Sabri Lamouchi.
We talk about how wide open it is and that’s probably a fair assessment with no obvious front runner.
Yes, Leeds are top but I don’t think they are blowing everyone away from a results and performance angle.
But they are very impressive when they are on song and the challenge for head coach Marcelo Bielsa this season was always to go one step further with a similar team but with the opposition almost knowing what’s coming.
The evolution of what we have seen of him so far shows you that he keeps his team on their toes and he is constantly thinking of ways to evolve the team.