Leeds United aiming to deliver big blow on promotion rivals

Kyle Bartley, back from suspension to possibly play against Leeds United.
Kyle Bartley, back from suspension to possibly play against Leeds United.

After heading back to the top of the Sky Bet Championship Leeds United now face one of their likely rivals in the race to stay at the summit when they travel to the Midlands to play West Bromwich Albion.

Following relegation and being able to keep many of their first team players Albion were made one of the promotion favourites at the start of the season and were justifying it not so long since when immediately up with the frontrunners.

But a little slump has seen them fail to win any of their last four matches – and they managed to lose to Hull City and Wigan Athletic teams who were comfortable seen off on their own patch by Marcelo Bielsa’s men.

Hardly the form to take into the big clash of the weekend in the division with West Brom now down in seventh place, five points behind the Whites. Saturday’s game gives Leeds a great chance to put some serious distance between themselves and one of their rivals and they will be keen to replicate the kind of control they enjoyed in the 2-1 victory at Wigan.

Again they dominated possession and chances and the only worry was that they did not win by a bigger margin.

The strikers at West Brom’s disposal are much sharper than the ones Wigan had, however, so United must be mindful that they still need to sharpen up their own act to make sure the promise of their build-up play is not lost.

Albion have history on their side as well as the Hawthorns has not too often been a happy hunting ground for Leeds, going back to when they were once relegated from the top division at the ground in 1982.

The clubs have not met often if recent years, but the Whites have lost on their last three visits to the ground and have only won once in their last eight meetings with West Brom.

Albion have been boosted ahead of this weekend’s first league meeting between the teams since 2007 with England internationals Kieran Gibbs and Gareth Barry expected to return from injury as well as striker Dwight Gayle, who has a good record against Leeds and a strong goalscoring record in the Championship for various clubs.

All three players have clearly been missed in their absence and will make Albion look a stronger side than the one that lost at Hull last Saturday. They also have former Whites defender Kyle Bartley back from suspension.

United will not have any of their injured first teamers back with Bielsa likely to stick to the 11 that started at Wigan. Midfielder Mateusz Klich got a whack on the foot and had to come off late on, but is expected to be okay to keep his place in the team at the Hawthorns.