Our fans’ panel have their say on Leeds United’s trip to Rotherham United tomorrow.
Fans suggested this week that Leeds have 18 cup finals to play this season, and it’s certainly beginning to look that way.
Half of Leeds’ remaining games in the Championship come against the current bottom nine sides, and with Rotherham up first, Marcelo Bielsa will be aiming for nothing less than a perfect record.
Yet, in his first season in England, he’s learnt that anyone can beat anyone in the Championship as he so often reminds us.
On paper, his side certainly have the quality to avoid a potential banana skin, and despite missing Pontus Jansson through suspension, Kalvin Phillips’ return will be welcomed. In recent weeks, Bielsa has stuck with the same forward line despite being uncharacteristically critical of them following defeat at Stoke. Again, Leeds dominated the ball but failed to make it count.
This is the type of game that any team aiming for promotion must win and, with Norwich facing Sheffield United, it’s set to be another pivotal weekend in the Championship.
Prediction: Rotherham United 0 Leeds United 2.
Ah that flipping rollercoaster! The highs of Villa, Blackburn and a scintillating performance against Derby and the lows of Hull, Forest and Stoke! Where to next?
Well, literally, Rotherham and, at face value, this ought to be a convincing Leeds win. The Millers have been ground down after a steady start to the season and now languish two points outside the drop zone after losing six of their last seven games including conceding four at home twice to West Brom and, most recently, Brentford. What could possibly go wrong?
Well, it’s a Yorkshire derby so that always means the opposition digs deeper than normal when Leeds rock up and we’ll be doing it without Pontus Jansson for a first league game in nine.
We do get Kalvin Phillips back and the big question is whether Kalvin slots in at centre-back or whether Marcelo Bielsa tries to make things more positive in the middle by slotting him back in his ‘Perlo’ role and maybe starting Aapo Halme. Whatever Bielsa chooses to do, this is very definitely a must win.
Or, we’ll be on that slippery slope of fading confidence.
Prediction: Rotherham United 2 Leeds United 4.
Steve Evans is a man who has (somehow) managed both sides in tomorrow’s fixture and had an insightful view on Marcelo Bielsa’s appointment when he said: “Will he know what it’s like going to the New York Stadium in Rotherham?”
Maybe not, but he’s about to find out and uncover all of Evans’ implied mystique. Coincidentally, and to be fair to Evans, this game follows a defeat at that more traditional bellweather of ‘can a foreign boss cut it in England’ – Stoke.
That puts the pressure on for three points against a side we should really have the beating of.
If United can get the win then a gap begins to re-open with Norwich and Sheffield United facing each other and our other main rivals in FA Cup action.
If we can pull clear at the top, it will set up a real humdinger against Norwich next week. The games can’t come quickly enough at the moment.
Prediction: Rotherham United 0 Leeds United 2.
The ‘weight’ of leading the Championship seems to be weighing heavy on the shoulders of Leeds United, the fluency in the winning run has gone and tired performances have brought a poor return of one win in five.
Whether the Spygate incident is affecting the players only they will know but many more like the lacklustre display at Stoke City will see Leeds slip out of the top two.
I am still wondering why Kiko Casilla is the only player to be added to the first-team squad; you only have to look at the bench last week to see that one or two are really needed.
Kalvin Phillips is back from suspension but Pontus Jansson is banned for one game after his sending off at Stoke. Unfortunately until the injured players are fit Marcelo Bielsa will have no choice to stick with the team (plus Phillips and Castilla) that played at so well against Derby but disappointed many at Stoke.
Surely this isn’t the best way to be going into the most important part of the season.
Rotherham have struggled for most of the season, but showed in the earlier fixture at Elland Road that they can be an awkward opponent and Leeds had to battle hard for the 2-0 win, Luke Ayling and top scorer Kemar Roofe getting the goals.
If you’re serious about going up in the top-two positions these are the games you have to win. Another defeat would unnerve even more fans that have become jittery after recent results.
Hopefully my fears will be dispelled by a comprehensive win over our rivals from South Yorkshire.
Prediction: Rotherham United 1 Leeds United 3.
Another tough task at strugglers Rotherham United awaits Leeds United tomorrow afternoon.
Although the Millers sit just above the drop zone, a staggering 21 of their 25 points have been gained at home.
United dominated at Stoke and could have come home with at least a point had they been a bit more ruthless in front of goal.
The continuing absence of Patrick Bamford is not helping in this respect and Pontus Jansson will also be missing through suspension.
Midfielder-turned-centre-half Kalvin Phillips, however, returns after his suspension.
It will be interesting to see how our new goalkeeper Kiko Casilla gets on when he makes his debut. Rotherham lost their last home game to Brentford and conceded four goals in the process which has to be a reason for the Whites to look on the bright side.
In any event, this fixture is looking like the usual Championship war of attrition but United need to win to calm everybody’s nerves.
Prediction: Rotherham United 1 Leeds United 2.
As I queued to get into an under-23s game held at Tadcaster Albion, I realised something special was going on.
Nearly 3,000 people turned up and, as good as the football is from the academy side, I suspect people were there not only to watch the game. There is a sense of being galvanised as there is a perception of the governing body persecuting our attempt to put the English Football League behind us.
The show of support at Tadcaster will continue through the rest of the season and, with renewed determination, one suspects that the long-threatened drubbing of a team is more likely now than ever. Rotherham, despite a steely resolve, might well be the team that comes a cropper. I often qualify my predictions with a caveat of scoring first and scoring early but, with Marcelo Bielsa concentrating on converting chances into goals, I envisage a thumping.
The affable Paul Warne should be advised to pick the maestro’s brain as much as possible and go into the remainder of the season with all the advice he can glean.
I suspect Ryan Edmondson may join the squad and Tyler Roberts looks sharp enough to get on the scoresheet. With that in mind and Jack Clarke providing ammunition, I’m going for a big Whites victory.
Prediction: Rotherham United 1 Leeds United 6.