YEP Jury: Stakes remain high despite Leeds United’s return to Championship’s summit

Pablo Hernandez.
Pablo Hernandez.
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Our fans’ panel have their say on Leeds United’s Championship home clash with Nottingham Forest.

DAVID WATKINS

Pontus Jansson.

Pontus Jansson.

A tricky-looking encounter with a struggling but resolute Ipswich was dealt with comfortably enough largely thanks to the return of Pablo Hernandez.

Leeds were still not totally efficient in the conversion of chances into goals but the post and a fine save prevented a 4-0 scoreline that would have been far more representative.

We now face a Nottingham Forest side that had a similarly overwhelming victory this week at Bolton – 3-0. Forest are in decent form and have lost only two games all season, both in the Championship. They went down 2-1 at Brentford when the Bees were buzzing in the late summer, then suffered the same result last weekend to the on-song Canaries of Norwich.

Every game in the Championship is tough and Forest should prove far more combative than Ipswich, but looking at their recent results the only one that stands out is a 2-0 win at the Riverside just before the international break. I’m going for the draw.

Sam Byram.

Sam Byram.

A Leeds victory would be a real marker laid down, though.

Prediction: Leeds United 2 Nottingham Forest 2.

ANDY RHODES

Another day, another televised game. Having watched Leeds at their scintillating best earlier in the season, Sky’s cameras have witnessed Leeds’ poorer recent performances.

That downturn in form will be music to the ears of Aitor Karanka whose Nottingham Forest side has also experienced a recent slump.

Last weekend, Forest became the latest victims of rejuvenated Norwich but, despite sitting in mid-table, it was only their second defeat of the season.

The gap between Leeds at the top of the table to Forest in seventh place is just four points, so the stakes remain high.

Prior to the Ipswich game, Marcelo Bielsa warned that Leeds must be more efficient in front of goal to be successful.

With the likes of Pablo Hernandez, Kemar Roofe and Jack Harrison back on form, Leeds’ creativity will be high.

Even in their tougher times this season United haven’t struggled to create, and if they could rediscover their eye for goal, not many defences will stop them.

Prediction: Leeds United 1 Nottingham Forest 0.

MATTHEW EVANS

Ipswich were dispatched with relative ease on Wednesday night and United grew as the game went on to the point where the last 20 minutes looked like a training exercise with simple passing and waves of attacks.

Our substitutes had improved our flow during that period of play and the Tractor Boys looked pretty much ‘dead on their feet’.

Not every opponent will be as hopeless as that, however, and we’re sure to see a much sterner test tomorrow against Nottingham Forest.

Having Pablo Hernandez and Kemar Roofe back is more of a boost than maybe we previously realised and, with Kalvin Phillips hitting the heights again, we are getting close to the formula that saw us win so many points in the opening month of the season.

I’d expect Tom Pearce and Adam Forshaw to be in with a shout of starting and Pontus Jansson should return from his ludicrous ban.

Our starting XI should have the flair to deal with a tricky opponent.

Prediction: Leeds United 2 Nottingham Forest 1.

KEITH INGHAM

The weekend brings a resurgent Forest to Elland Road. The Midlands club have had impressive performances recently including a win at Middlesbrough.

They have assembled an expensive squad on ‘big bucks’. Ex-Leeds players Sam Byram and Liam Bridcutt could be involved in the 18 on duty tomorrow. Forest sit just outside the top six but are only four points off the top of the table. On Tuesday they beat Bolton 3-0 at the University of Bolton Stadium.

Marcelo Bielsa could be without Gaetano Berardi (muscle strain) so new dad Pontus Jansson should come back into the defence. It will be interesting to see if the Argentinian keeps the 3-3-1-3 formation deployed against Ipswich with the outstanding Kalvin Phillips in the middle of a back three or reverts to the 4-1-2-3 system he’s used for much of the season.

Matches between the teams are usually close and I’m expecting a great game.

There isn’t much between the clubs points wise but I think if Leeds can get an early goal they should just edge this important clash.

Leeds, meanwhile, climbed back to the Championship summit after a 2-0 win over lowly Ipswich Town at Elland Road, while West Brom, surprisingly, lost 4-1 at the Hawthorns.

I’ve said it many times, this Championship is so strong that many matches are just too hard to call.

After a disappointing away defeat at Blackburn, the Leeds faithful were expecting a much better performance on Tuesday – and got one.

The scoreline didn’t reflect the performance of Leeds; they could and should have at least doubled the scoreline.

Kalvin Phillips was my man of the match but Pablo Hernandez was also superb, putting a terrific ball into the box for Kemar Roofe to score the opener and setting up Liam Cooper for number two.

Prediction: Leeds United 2 Nottingham Forest 1.

MIKE GILL

After Wednesday’s canter against a woeful Ipswich side, the scene is set for an epic struggle against Forest.

It was great to see United firing on all cylinders again with Pablo Hernandez, Kalvin Phillips and Liam Cooper bossing the show, especially in the second half. Samuel Saiz seems to be going through a dip in form and Adam Forshaw looks the better bet at the moment. I also felt that the left side looked much more balanced when Tom Pearce came in.

Forest will certainly provide much tougher opposition on the back of an impressive 3-0 win at Bolton, that included the luxury of a missed penalty.

Forest manager Aitor Karanka is an old Championship hand and will be pitting his wits against Marcelo Bielsa along with another ten or so clubs who all want to knock Leeds off their perch.

Most people would now probably agree that we played Norwich and Derby at a good stage of the season.

Tight prediction this one, and it’s tempting to forecast a draw but ...

Prediction: Leeds United 2 Nottingham Forest 1.

SHAUN SMITH

There is much to be said for the accumulation of marginal gains.

British Cycling is a case in point and one successful GB rowing crew ran every conversation through this filter: ‘Will this make the boat go faster?’ So: ‘Shall we go for a Nandos, lads?’ – ‘Will this make the boat go faster?’

Leeds are one game into a six-match cycle which will go a long way in deciding if they take gold this season. Ipswich and Forest at home, two tough away games rounded off by two comfortable-looking fixtures at home.

There is a scenario in which, with all guns blazing, 18 points might be had, casting Leeds as front runners. The margins are tight. That extra bit in training, a little extra sleep, a little less carb and a little more protein. And, a little more noise. That’s where we come in. Does positive support ‘make the boat go faster?’. Undoubtedly, yes. When Leeds fans are ‘at it’, positively, emphatically, irresistibly, it provides a gain which is far from marginal.

Come on Leeds. We are going up as worthy champions.

Prediction: Leeds United 2 Nottingham Forest 1.