Leeds United v Birmingham City: Coach Christiansen warns against complacency

Leeds United head coach Thomas Christiansen.
Leeds United head coach Thomas Christiansen.
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Thomas Christiansen has played down the significance of Leeds United potentially moving to the top of the Championship tonight and insisted the club’s start to the season would not lead to any complacency within his squad.

Leeds will stand at the summit of England’s second division for only the second time since 1990 if they beat Birmingham City at Elland Road this evening and leaders Cardiff City fail to win away at Preston North End.

Fit-again Vurnon Anita is available for selection. PIC: Jonathan Gawthorpe

Fit-again Vurnon Anita is available for selection. PIC: Jonathan Gawthorpe

Neil Warnock’s Cardiff have set the early pace in the division but Leeds climbed to second on Saturday, two points adrift, after a 5-0 demolition of Burton Albion.

Christiansen, whose side hold one of eight unbeaten records in England’s top four leagues, said he wanted the club to “enjoy the moment” but called on his players to “work harder” and told them to mentally prepare for tougher periods of form ahead.

Leeds last reached the top of the Championship on the opening day of the 2004-05 season, by virtue of an early kick-off against Derby County.

The club have not spent 24 hours in that position since winning the Division Two title under Howard Wilkinson in 1990.

Vying for contention, Leeds United's Gaetano Berardi.'PIC: Jonathan Gawthorpe

Vying for contention, Leeds United's Gaetano Berardi.'PIC: Jonathan Gawthorpe

Reflecting on an impressive run of six league games without defeat, Christiansen said: “We’ve just started. There’s a lot of work to do.

“Of course we can enjoy the moment we’re having with the team, the results and the performances but we need to work much more.

“This moment is when you need to work harder to maintain our position. I want the team to be alive but also to be ambitious, to reach even higher and do better.”

Christiansen’s squad will be close to full strength tonight with full-back Vurnon Anita recovered from the knock which forced his half-time substitution against Burton. Gaetano Berardi is also available following the dislocated shoulder he suffered last month.

Striker Caleb Ekuban will be absent until at least November with a broken foot but on-loan Everton defender Matthew Pennington is set to return to contention next week.

Birmingham, who wrapped up their summer transfer dealings with the £6m signing of Jota from Brentford, come to Leeds with a poor run of four points from six games behind them but Christiansen warned against under-estimating Harry Redknapp or his team, saying: “I don’t believe ‘fear’ is a word they’ll want to use but respect – I would imagine they’ll have that after the good performances we’ve had, the same as we have for Birmingham.

“We have to have big respect for all of our opponents. This league is so competitive and dangerous that you cannot relax for a moment.

“When you see the work well-reflected in the players and the results then no-one can complain. You have to enjoy it but again, we will have many games this season where things will not work out as we want. This is where we have to pull up the arms of our shirts and stay together.

“This moment will come for sure, the bad results. Then we have to stick together and work even harder.”