Our YEP jurors have their say on Leeds United’s televised clash at Middlesbrough tomorrow.
The reign of Dave Hockaday at Leeds United had few highlights, but back in August Middlesbrough had the unenviable honour of being the only side to be defeated by the Whites in the Championship under our unheralded and quickly forgotten head coach.
Since then, Leeds and Boro have headed in opposite directions.
Middlesbrough themselves have flourished under a head coach in his first job, although Aitor Karanka’s footballing CV boasts Real Madrid rather than Swindon Town as the core of his playing career.
The Teesside club have been perennial promotion candidates since dropping out of the top flight in 2009, but despite the continued financial backing of chairman Steve Gibson, Boro have not even made the play-offs in the five years since returning to the Championship.
A play-off place is the least that Middlesbrough will be hoping for this year, especially after Wednesday night’s draw with Birmingham saw them go to the top of the Championship.
The play-offs are a distant dream for Leeds United, but they head to the Riverside Stadium in fine fettle, looking for a third consecutive league victory.
Concerns about relegation are receding, but Neil Redfearn’s troops cannot afford to rest up just yet.
If Leeds were picking an away ground to visit, Middlesbrough would be up there as one of their favourites, with United having a particularly good record at the Boro base, losing just once in our last 10 visits.
Once again Leeds will be pinning their hopes on the performances of our Academy prospects, with Byram, Cook, Mowatt and Taylor now permanently inked onto the United team sheet.
Surely the prospect of those four being the backbone of the side in the future is enough for the powers that be (whoever they are at the moment) to secure new contracts for them all.
Those academy products will be in the shop window tomorrow lunchtime with the match featuring on Sky Sports, but despite the positive vibes generated by the win over Millwall last week, I fear that the side at the top of the table will be too strong for one just finding its feet.
Prediction: Middlesbrough 2 Leeds United 0.
KEITH INGHAM After last week’s victory and a rise up the table, Leeds United face a tough lunchtime televised kick-off at highly placed Middlesbrough. Leeds though will be buoyed by their recent form, especially away from home.
‘The Smoggies’, as they are known, are in form. Although they were defeated at Arsenal in the FA Cup last weekend this might be seen as a good thing, now promotion to the Premiership is the main target for the club.
The manager, Aitor Karanka, has done very well this season after what seemed a difficult first season. He has assembled a side that is well regarded in the Championship with pace up front. The last time the clubs met, Billy Sharp grabbed a debut goal in the 1-0 Leeds win, after coming on as a late substitute.
The Leeds team seems to pick itself at the moment and, barring injuries, I see no changes. I talked to a few fans that attended the latest under-21 game and they reported Cani lacks match fitness, but Adryan impressed as did the young right-back Lewie Coyle. Their chance may come but not on Saturday.
We’ve a decent record against Boro away and although we lost two seasons ago, before that defeat the last time we lost was way back in 1992. The 2013 defeat came after three straight Leeds wins in 2003, 2010 and 2012. These matches are usually very tight games and although I’m hopeful of a win, a point wouldn’t be a disaster.
Prediction: Middlesbrough 1 Leeds United 2.
LEEDS United have an eagerly-anticipated lunchtime televised appointment tomorrow when they take on promotion-chasing Middlesbrough.
Aitor Karanka’s Middlesbrough are unbeaten at home since the end of August. However, fresh from winning four of their last five matches and boasting a good record at the Riverside this season, the Whites will be heading to the North East full of confidence.
I’d expect head coach Neil Redfearn to stick to the 4-5-1 formation and name an unchanged side in a game that I expect to produce plenty of goals.
And a share of the spoils would be very welcome indeed.
Prediction: Middlesbrough 2 Leeds United 2.
A good run of form meets our most difficult challenge for a while but these are the types of games that will separate a good mid-table finish and just avoiding relegation.
Fortunately, Middlesbrough are on the back of a busy fixture calendar and the Riverside is generally a venue that brings positive results for United.
The effort that has gone into tightening our defence coupled with our midfielders finding their scoring boots means that we can go into this fixture with no small amount of optimism.
Prediction: Middlesbrough 0 Leeds United 1
This is probably the toughest game we will have all season. Middleborough are the form team in the division and look almost certain to gain promotion to the Premier League.
We have nothing to fear though. We are playing well and look like we can cause a lot of teams problems.
Our defence has been solid since the start of 2015 and I am confident it can continue on Saturday. I don’t think Redfearn will change the squad at all from last weekend’s win against Millwall.
There is a real buzz around the place at the moment, and we can really start to look up the table.
A point tomorrow would be a fantastic result.
Prediction: Middlesbrough 0 Leeds United 0.
This is going to be our toughest away game to date but it is also one where we have already beaten our opponents at Elland Road, and we are much improved since that game.
They are top of the league for a reason, but we seem to equip ourselves well against the top teams. I would take a point but my heart says away win!
Prediction: Middlesbrough 1 Leeds United 2.