Leeds are back! But Pablo isn’t (Yet) – Whites v Bluebirds Preview

18 Jun 2020 04:22 pm, by YorkshireSquare

Leeds will kick-off again the season again at 12:00pm on Sunday 21st June against Cardiff City. The trip to South Wales will be a tough first fixture back. Cardiff may be seventeen points and eight places behind Leeds in the table but it was the reverse match at Elland Road back in December when the wheels fell off. Leeds had gone into that game off the back of seven straight victories and were three nil up thanks to goals from Helder Costa and Patrick Bamford until it all when wrong after an hour. Lee Tomlin gave Cardiff hope of a late revival on the hour and Sean Morrison added their second, only to then be sent off for a late tackle. With Cardiff down to ten men surely Leeds could rise out the storm, but just two minutes later Robert Glatzel guided in Tomlin's flick to level.

It was the start of a wobbly patch for Leeds as they lost to Fulham and drew with Preston before edging a 5-4 thriller against Birmingham and drawing with West Brom. The revival wasn’t to last though as losses to Sheffield Wednesday, QPR, Wigan and Forest came in quick succession as Leeds saw their twelve-point lead disappear. It wasn’t until the draw with Brentford ushered in five straight wins before the season was brought to a halt. It’s that kind of form Leeds will be hoping to replicate when the season restarts and a win against Cardiff would be a real statement to the chasing pack. Though how much for matters after such a long layoff is not clear.

The Leeds players returned from the break fitter than ever, beating their personal best times around Marcelo Bielsa’s new Thorp Arch running track. How that will translate into match fitness is yet to be seen though. The biggest concern for Marcelo Bielsa will be a minor injury to Pablo Hernandez which will keep him out for the Cardiff game. He is expected to be back to full training ahead of the game though. Other absentees include Adam Forshaw who remains unavailable for selection following his hip surgery in the US back in February. Jean-Kévin Augustin is also likely to miss the remaining games of the season after a reoccurrence of his hamstring injury that hampered his season before the break. Kiko Casilla is serving an eight game suspension and won't be available for selection until the final game of the season against Charlton.

Cardiff chalked up a two-nil victory against bottom of the table Barnsley before the season was curtailed and managed a two all draw with promotion hopefuls Brentford before that. Defeats to Forest and Stoke earlier in February mean Cardiff’s for has been a mixed bag, though they did beat West Brom back in January. Neil Harris will be afforded the luxury of being able to choose his strongest team with Lee Tomlin and Nathaniel Mendez-Laing both back in contention. Jazz Richards, Greg Cunningham and Isaac Vassell will all miss the fixture through injury, but none of those three would have forced their way into the starting eleven anyway.

Other games of significance

The Championship kicks off on Saturday at 12:30 with third place Fulham entertaining fourth place Brentford, a win for the Cottagers would bring them within four points of Leeds. The Bee's are a further four points behind Scott Parker's men with many pundits saying they posse a greater threat to Leeds than Fulham. Second place West Brom host Birmingham and though local derbies can be unpredictable, you have to fancy the Baggies here. Blues Manager Pep Clotet has handed in his notice at St Andrews but will see out the season. Charlton travel to Hull for a massive six pointer with both teams having a number of players refusing to play. Nottingham Forest face a tricky tie at Hillsborough, whilst Preston make the 200 mile trip to Luton.