Thomas Christiansen admitted that a swift return to form was needed to see Leeds United through a “crucial” month but dismissed the significance of their record against the top clubs in the Championship ahead of tomorrow’s clash with Cardiff City.
Cardiff’s visit to Elland Road signals the start of a potentially defining period for Leeds, with all bar one of the division’s top-six sides due to meet United in the space of seven matches.
Christiansen is again contending with a major selection crisis in which eight senior players are missing this weekend, including new signing Tyler Roberts, but he is also fighting to fix a run of league form in which Leeds have failed to win a league game since Boxing Day.
United were five points off the Championship’s second automatic promotion position at that stage but now lie four points below the play-offs with 17 games to play. Christiansen’s team lost 3-1 away at fourth-placed Cardiff in September and have beaten just one of the Championship’s current top seven this season, through a 3-0 win at Bristol City in October.
Leeds’ chances of qualifying for the play-offs in Christiansen’s first season as head coach rest on a marked improvement in that record but Christiansen said: “Every game is another game. If we didn’t take good results (before) then we can do it now.
“It’s a big month with difficult games against top six teams. It’s very crucial and at the end of the month we will see where we stand. But I’m convinced that we’re going to make good results and take good points.
“We need to be positive and think that we can do it, and why not? We know what we are able to do and if we have a good day we can beat everyone.”
Cardiff, under one-time Leeds manager Neil Warnock, have been in the running for automatic promotion since the start of the season and Christiansen said the superior height in Warnock’s line-up would require United to “play on the ground” tomorrow.
“They’re always a dangerous team,” Christiansen said. “We saw it in the game we played there. They’re a very strong team and physical with direct play.
“They’ve got five or six players who are almost 1.90m (6’2”) tall so that will be a challenge for us. That means we need to play with the ball on the ground.”
Leeds completed three first-team signings during the January transfer window, taking Laurens De Bock from Club Brugge and Adam Forshaw from Middlesbrough before sealing a £2.5m deadline-day deal for Roberts from West Brom. The 19-year-old striker will miss tomorrow’s game and the chance of an immediate debut with a minor knock.
United faced a severe shortage of centre-backs during Tuesday’s 0-0 draw at Hull City following a suspension to Liam Cooper and injuries to Matthew Pennington and Conor Shaughnessy but the club chose not to bring in cover before the transfer deadline, despite Pontus Jansson sitting one yellow card away from a two-match ban.
“It’s a situation where if Pennington didn’t arrive (fit) or if Pontus sees a yellow card, then there are different circumstances we have to have in mind,” Christiansen said. “But when they’re all available, if you sign another centre-back then you will have five and that’s too much. We believe in what we have and we will work with that.
“I believe we’ve made good signings in this period. Two of them have already played and we have Tyler. He will also help the team for sure. Of course you always want more players but what we have done, I can be satisfied with that.”