The timing of the international break could not possibly have been worse for Blues. While we got to bathe in the glow of a last minute winner for an extra week, all the momentum from it was immediately lost as we got to watch England struggle to a loss against Czech Republic. Great.
Enough about that, though. Blues’ win against Boro was one of the most encouraging, enjoyable performances we can remember in the last few years. Bellingham and Sunjic ran the midfield, and Crowley and Villalba combined to create chance after chance for Blues. Even after the late equaliser, a peach of a ball from Crowley found teenager Odin Bailey, and Blues avoided one of the biggest travesties football would have ever seen.
Leeds will be a different beast, though. They’re a scary team, and while they sit in 5th place, there’s a real feeling that they will be in the top two come the end of the season. They started the season on fire, but a slip-up to Millwall in their most recent game could give some hope to Blues fans.
Jefferson Montero is back in training, but is expected to be a few weeks away from full fitness (you can insert your own jokes about that one!). Josh McEachran is reportedly closer to the first team, but is unlikely to start given the performance of the two in the middle last time out. While David Davis might be an option against a free-flowing Leeds team, Bellingham was insatiable against Middlesbrough, and may be given a starting berth again.
Leeds will have Gaetano Berardi available, after his one-match ban for a red card against Millwall was overturned. They also welcome back Pablo Hernandez, who was linked with Blues when Garry Monk was at the club.
Blues did the double over Leeds last season, with Che Adams getting two in the away game and the only goal at home. Blues have actually won the last three, as we won at home again the season before with a goal from Jacques Maghoma. The two before that were Leeds wins, but we’ll choose to ignore that. Blues have had some great times at Elland Road – most notably, when Nikola Zigic scored four in 70 minutes. We don’t need any excuse to rewatch this…
Whilst Blues might move towards a more defensive line-up due to the opposition, it seems harsh to drop anyone after such a stellar performance at home. There have been calls to drop Lee Camp for Stockdale, but we would be very surprised if that happened. An unchanged lineup seems the most likely outcome.
Blues boss Pep Clotet spoke about his desire for the Boro game to be a sign of things to come: “It cannot be the exception because we’ve been working for that since the start,”
“We did it at Derby, we did it at Middlesbrough, and in spells in other games like Bristol City at home. But Middlesbrough is the day we managed to link the result with the performance. A lot of the tactical details and the roles and understanding of the roles for the players were very clear and they were able to achieve their targets and help the team that way.”
“Obviously, we know that opposition plays a big part in the games that you play and now it’s about Leeds United which is a really strong team and for me one of the best teams in the league,” he continued. “But for me it’s another chance to put ourselves out there.
“There will be bumps in the road obviously because it’s a new a thing and we are growing into it, but that’s the way that the Club wants to go, and I back it as well because I enjoy it as well. We just need to make sure we give it time and patience and we can repeat that, and eventually it will become part of our culture as a team.”