Competitive football is back at Elland Road once again as Leeds host Brighton. I for one can’t wait for the season to begin, much has happened off the field for the Whites, and we’ve got three new signings to introduce to the home faithful.
Our last competitive game at Elland Road was against Brighton, but much has changed since that 2-1 defeat.
Oscar Garcia has been appointed as their new manager after Gus Poyet left in the summer. A man who’s played for Barcelona and coached their youth team. I can’t imagine their philosophy being much different from the one Poyet instilled when he took over. I think they will line up in a 4-3-3 formation – trying to keep possession and work the opposition when they’ve got the ball; and then pressing high from the front when they haven’t got it.
With Rodolph Austin suspended and Sam Byram injured, Brian McDermott has a bit of a selection headache ahead of the season opener. Austin’s suspension was a dubious decision against the same opposition. Despite the clubs appeal, the FA still believe, for some reason, it was the correct decision. His “push” on Ashley Barnes infuriated McDermott, who isn’t happy one of his star players is missing from an important game.
Byram, on the other hand, has been injured since the back end of last season. Something we all thought wouldn’t take him long to recover from has become quite serious. Many fans are even having suspicions that the reason he hasn’t been playing is because he’s about to leave, but somehow I don’t think that’s true.
Anyhow, we’ve got to attempt to beat the South coast team without two star players, but with a brilliant crowd of over 30,000 roaring the team on maybe we could pull off something of a shock, I do consider us underdogs to be honest, as I’m in no doubt that Brighton’s squad is better than ours on paper.
The way our 4-2-3-1 went against Nuremberg – although we’re not going to face many teams with as strong of a team as them – I’m hoping we don’t attempt to utilise that again.
I feel Brian will continue with the 4-1-2-1-2 narrow diamond, with Paul Green operating as a holding midfielder. Luke Murphy alongside Michael Tonge, although I’d rather see Alex Mowatt given a chance; and Ross McCormack fielding a role just behind the two forwards. Luke Varney and Noel Hunt would be my preferred choice and despite Varney’s undoubted aerial ability McDermott may choose to use the much taller Matt Smith – I can’t see him losing too many battles in the air.
What about the defence? I’m expecting Lee Peltier to start at right-back, although Brian was impressed with Zac Thompson’s performance against Shelbourne. No offence to them but the teams in the Championship are of a much higher standard. Thompson was effectively playing as a wing-back and was rarely troubled defensively, whereas Brighton’s wingers will have plenty of chances to get at our full-backs.
Tom Lees will start at centre-half, but who will McDermott field alongside him? One of our writers tweeted about the possibility of using Stephen Warnock in a central position, why not, I’d feel more confident with him there than Jason Pearce. Then Adam Drury would get his chance at left-back, he impressed me when he was played last season and if he can stay injury-free I don’t see why he can’t have a part to play.
How I think we’ll line up.
As I said before, it looks like we’ve sold well over 30,000 ahead of this game. It will be our biggest opening day attendance since the 1-0 win against Derby back in 2004. Times are definitely changing!
Fair play to GFH for lowering ticket prices, although there’s no doubt their sacking of Bates has had a part to play. My prediction of 25-26,000 is definitely wrong, and hopefully the fans can be the “twelfth man”. We’ve got to use this to our advantage, get us on their side early on and be the team that controls the tempo of the game.
I honestly can’t see us winning, mind you I’m normally the pessimist when it comes to Leeds.
It’ll be nice to see Luke Murphy in a competitive game, and if he and Paul Green can dominate that midfield department then we’ve definitely got a chance.
The defence will have to be solid as well as we know Brighton will create plenty of chances.
With a new manager in charge, who knows how Brighton will turn up and perform? I’ll go for a 2-1 Leeds win, Brighton scoring early on but us scoring two second half goals to secure an opening day victory and give us something to build on.