AHEAD OF Leeds United’s eagerly-awaited clash with Fulham, the YEP’s Lee Sobot looks at few key talking points ahead of the Tuesday night Championship showdown at Elland Road.
How many changes?
Leeds failed to break down Preston North End at Elland Road on Saturday, despite the visitors playing the last half an hour with ten men. But how many, if any, changes will United’s head coach Thomas Christiansen opt for?
It seems very unlikely that Christiansen will make any changes to his defence with United keeping a clean sheet against Preston and with Matthew Pennington and Gaetano Berardi still injured.
Keeper Rob Green is back available after his knee injury but Christiansen has evidently made Felix Wiedwald his no 1 and will surely not drop the German after keeping a clean sheet.
Chris Wood is also clearly a banker to start upfront.
But changes could definitely be on the cards in midfield and Christiansen has genuine options to change in every position as part of his favoured 4-2-3-1.
Eunan O’Kane and Kalvin Phillips struggled to dominate Preston’s midfield until Ben Pearson was sent off and Ronaldo Vieira, Vurnon Anita, Mateusz Klich and Liam Bridcutt all provide other options.
Vieira impressed once brought on against Preston and the gut feeling is that the teenager might partner O’Kane.
And did wingers Gianni Alioski and Kemar Roofe plus no 10 Pablo Hernandez do enough against Preston to warrant keeping their place?
Of that trio, Alioski looks the most likely to keep his place as the Macedonian wide man offered United’s biggest threat for the opening hour against Preston.
But there must be a temptation to give Stuart Dallas a go over Kemar Roofe who has had one very good game against Bolton and then one not so good one against Preston.
The debate also continues over who should get the nod in the no 10 position between Pablo Hernandez and Samuel Saiz.
Saiz dazzled last midweek with a hat-trick against Port Vale in the Carabao Cup and after Hernandez failed to totally advertise his claims against Preston, Saiz might be given the chance to be the midweek star of the show once again.
But the prediction is that Vieira for Phillips will be the only change.
Christiansen can then always mix it up from the bench and in Hernandez’s defence he did set up Saturday’s best chance of the game for Chris Wood.
Starting Caleb Ekuban alongside Wood and opting for a 4-4-2 is another possible option for United’s head coach.
Can Leeds pass their first big test?
Christiansen remains unbeaten as Whites head coach after two games in the league and one Carabao Cup tie but there is no doubt that Fulham will provide the toughest examination yet.
The Cottagers only have two points so far this season after draws at home to Norwich City and at Reading but nobody is fooled by their early league position of 14th, especially as the Cottagers earned a 1-1 draw at Reading on Saturday despite playing 89 minutes with ten men after the first-minute dismissal of Tomas Kalas.
Fulham were plenty of people’s fancies to win the play-offs last season after charging up the table to finish sixth by playing a brand of football that had many believing the Cottagers were the best side to visit Elland Road last term.
Fulham have maintained the services of boss Slaviša Jokanovicć whilst also signing forward Lucas Piazon and re-signing centre-back Kalas on loan from Chelsea as well as midfielder Oliver Norwood on loan from Brighton, plus Ibrahima Cisse from Standard Liege.
The Cottagers lost Scott Malone to Huddersfield Town but the Londoners are third favourites to win the league at 8-1 behind Wolves and Middlesbrough.
Leeds looked good going forward against Bolton and also against Port Vale but took a sideways step against Preston who to be fair might well end up in the play-offs mix themselves under a good manager in Alex Neil.
As far as the prospects of Christiansen’s side are concerned, Tuesday’s clash with the Cottagers will reveal much more.
But at least Fulham are not yet fully up and running after two draws and with Kalas suspended and Tom Cairney an injury doubt, this could be as good a time as any to play them.
Will the fans be out in force?
The fact that Leeds have sold a club record number of season tickets for a Championship campaign has been well documented - around 18,000 - and a crowd of 32,880 witnessed Saturday’s clash with Preston.
But how many fans will make their way to Elland Road on a Tuesday night for what is undeniably one of United’s biggest home games of the season.
Fulham, after all, were responsible for nabbing United’s play-off spot last term and the Cottagers seem certain to be in the mix again.
Leeds really ought to be approaching the fixture looking to make it nine points out of nine but seven out of nine would still represent an excellent start and the club will be looking for another bumper crowd to help get Christiansen’s men over the line.