YEP Jury: Leeds United can’t afford to be bullied off the ball by ‘pragmatic’ Boro

Middlesbrough defender Aden Flint celebrates scoring against Sheffield United.
Middlesbrough defender Aden Flint celebrates scoring against Sheffield United.
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Our fans’ panel look forward to the visit of rivals Middlesbrough tonight.

ANDY RHODES

Tony Pulis.

Tony Pulis.

It’s that time again. Time for the derby that fans from both sides will claim they don’t care about. But rest assured, when the game kicks off no-one will be sitting still in their seats.

Tuesday’s Carabao Cup game was an eye opener for Leeds and will show other teams the way to beat them.

The Whites couldn’t cope with Preston’s energetic start, and, despite playing against 10 men, the damage was done by half-time.

Preston were well organised, something which Boro boss Tony Pulis always instils in his teams, and with the physicality of the likes of Aden Flint and Britt Assombalonga, Marcelo Bielsa will be hoping that Leeds won’t be bullied again.

But Tuesday was a cup game featuring just two first-team regulars, and when the likes of Samu Saiz and Mateusz Klich came on, Leeds looked more in control.

Their sharp passing could be the key to beating a resolute Boro.

Agent Howson, you know what to do.

Prediction: Leeds United 2 Middlesbrough 2.

DAVID WATKINS

The midweek exit from the Carabao Cup was a disappointment but with only two of the players who would normally feature in a Championship game starting against Preston, it ought to have little bearing on the Middlesbrough clash tonight.

Boro avoided any possible hangover from their cup exploits with a win over Rochdale on Tuesday although they made 10 changes from their previous Championship game which is comparable with the nine Leeds made.

If there is an outright winner in this top-of-the-table encounter, then that side will be seen as the best in class as we close this first segment of the season and go into the international break.

Boro have a similar record to Leeds from their five league games, four wins and a draw, and their most recent victories against Bristol City and West Brom look impressive. Boro have the vastly experienced Tony Pulis in charge and a streetwise team that knows how the Championship works.

I expect a very close game.

Prediction: Leeds United 1 Middlesbrough 1.

KEITH INGHAM

So Leeds’ impressive opening to the season came to an end on Tuesday in a 2-0 defeat to Preston North End in the Carabao Cup at Elland Road. One of those nights when the final ball just wasn’t good enough and against a team that was ‘up for it’.

It happens and a trip to Wembley will not come via this competition.

Marcelo Bielsa made nine changes for Tuesday’s cup tie, only Kalvin Phillips and Pontus Jansson kept their places from the team that beat Norwich so comprehensively. To be honest none of the players did enough to force Bielsa’s hand to play them in the top-of-the-table clash with Middlesbrough tonight.

Middlesbrough have spent big and some quality acquisitions have been brought into the club by chairman Steve Gibson.

They have clearly set out to get out of the Championship this term after missing out at the semi-final stage last season. Tony Pulis knows the Championship well and his team will be well prepared for their visit to Elland Road.

Leeds need their key players ‘on it’; Samuel Saiz and Pablo Hernandez have the skill to get behind the Middlesbrough back line and, in Kemar Roofe, they have a striker who can make the most of their endeavours.

At the other end of the pitch the defence will be tested severely by the Middlesbrough front line but they have shown already they are quite capable of doing so.

It’s a tough test, but they all are.

No game is easy in this Sky Bet Championship but if Leeds can get a goal ahead before the break I think they will hang on to it and claim the three points.

Prediction: Leeds United 1 Middlesbrough 0.

MIKE GILL

Tonight brings the much-anticipated clash with Tony Pulis’s Middlesbrough.

The two teams are locked at the top of the table, having achieved their positions using vastly different styles of football. Boro have a very strong defence and were quite fortunate to edge past West Brom on their last Championship outing. In Tuesday’s Carabao Cup, they beat Rochdale 2-1.

Leeds struggled against Preston after conceding an early penalty and letting in a great strike from Brandon Barker just before half-time.

This was despite Preston being reduced to 10 men after 27 minutes.

In the second half, despite the addition of Samuel Saiz, Gjanni Alioski and Mateusz Klich, United couldn’t break Preston down and it was clear long before the end of the game that the result was going to be a defeat.

A much more inventive approach will be needed against Boro and it is hoped that the returning players, especially Pablo Hernandez and Kemar Roofe will duly provide the missing ingredients.

Prediction: Leeds United 2 Middlesbrough 1.

SHAUN SMITH

When Rembrandt painted portraits he started with the background, leaving an area blank where the subject would later be added.

He built the space around before he created that which was to catch the eye.

His images emerge from the darkness and, in doing so, from the canvas itself.

Not everyone is an artist. Tony Pulis, for example. The Boro manager might bash out a circle, a line for a nose and squiggles for eyes. It’s still a face but it’s not art.

His side, this year’s ‘Cardiff’, join Leeds (albeit briefly) at the top of the table on equal points but find themselves poles apart in the passing statistics. Boro are drawn in Pulis’ image – pragmatic, purposeful, prosaic. They will attempt to bully Leeds United. They will prod and poke, batter and bully. All to no avail.

Leeds will paint pictures with the ball. They will be the exquisitely executed brushstrokes to the Teessiders’ rollers of trade magnolia. United will leap from the canvas. Boro will be left face down on it.

Prediction: Leeds United 3 Middlesbrough 1.

MATTHEW EVANS

Leeds are not unbeatable. That will be the message Middlesbrough and the Championship take from Tuesday’s disappointing surrender to Preston.

With ‘only recently-returned-from-injury’ cases Stuart Dallas, Tyler Roberts and Conor Shaughnessy, there was rustiness and few of the XI did anything to suggest Marcelo Bielsa’s first team needs a shake up. The lack of proper reserve-team football has probably done as much as anything to devalue the League Cup with teams using it for fringe players.

Many fans are calling our exit a blessing in disguise as we can now concentrate on matters like tonight’s clash with one of our early promotion rivals. Tuesday was no indication to opponents how we might perform this evening and it remains to be seen how much the first defeat affects us. We may lose momentum or we may dispatch Boro with the same cool efficiency that Stoke, Rotherham, Derby and Norwich were seen off.

Either way, it is rare that an Elland Road game is set up to be so exciting.

Prediction: Leeds United 2 Middlesbrough 1.