THOMAS CHRISTIANSEN insisted it was too soon for Leeds United or Cardiff City to consider themselves candidates for automatic promotion and warned that Neil Warnock would be itching to beat his old club when the sides meet in Wales tonight.
Christiansen described the meeting between Championship leaders Leeds and third-placed Cardiff as a “top game” with the clubs locked on 20 points after nine games and separated only by goal difference.
But United’s head coach said the league table was “very young” and told his players to focus on the threat posed by Warnock’s squad.
Former Leeds boss Warnock watched his players make the early running in the Championship by winning their first five games of the season, a run which earned him the manager of the month award for August.
United’s start – their first appearance at the top of the Championship since 1990 – has raised expectation of a campaign that finally breaks their 13-year exodus from the Premier League, but Christiansen played down talk of a sustained promotion bid.
“All the games are important and always the next one,” Christiansen said. “This is my message to all the players. But if you see the table, this is a top game. We have to take it as it is.
“I don’t look further than one or two games so I don’t look at myself in that (a promotion) situation. It would be nice and we have our dreams to fulfil. We all work on trying to achieve that, but if it’s possible or not, time will tell.
“When you’re up there in this situation and five points above seventh position it’s positive, but still the league is very young. There’s nothing given.”
Warnock took charge of Cardiff shortly after Leeds inflicted a 2-0 defeat on the Welsh club last September, replacing the sacked Paul Trollope. His team earned a 2-0 win at Elland Road in February, one of only five clubs to win at United’s ground and the first to score there in six league matches.
The 68-year-old endured an unrewarding period in charge of Leeds during 2012 and 2013, leaving after 14 months and 63 games in charge.
When you’re up there in this situation and five points above seventh position it’s positive, but still the league is very young.Leeds United head coach, Thomas Christiansen
“He’s going to do everything to motivate his players, especially for this game,” Christiansen said. “It’s not only a top game but a game against his ex team.
“For sure he wants to take three points and push his players to give more than they have to take these important points.”
Christiansen’s players claimed a 3-2 win over another top-six side in Ipswich Town on Saturday, the first stage of a three-match run which United’s boss pinpointed as “crucial” in demonstrating Leeds’ potential.
The Elland Road club visit Sheffield Wednesday on Sunday and are aiming to retain first place in the table heading into the next international break.
“We’re at least where we want to be,” said Christiansen, whose only defeat as head coach came at Millwall 10 days ago. “I said that these three games would be crucial to see (what Leeds can achieve).
“I don’t doubt the character here. This team has shown that they are ready and we normally have good results away.
“If we win at Cardiff then we’ll prove we’re in a good way. We had the same situation against Ipswich, who had only two points less. We proved that we can win against the good teams.
“I believe it will be a Millwall game, an Ipswich game, a Birmingham game all in one. We have to learn from those games - what we have done and what we need to do.”