We preview Saturday's Football League Championship game between Leeds and Brighton.
What an intriguing contrast this match makes for, even outside of the log ramifications. Leeds are aiming to return to their halcyon days in the Premier League, where they were once Champions League semi-finalists. Brighton are aiming to make it to the big show for the first time and see what all the hoopla is all about. Brighton strengthened their grip on an automatic qualification spot in the last round with a comfortable 3-0 victory over plummeting Derby. Chris Hughton - seemingly the nicest guy in English football - has fashioned a free-flowing side that is capable of decimating unsuspecting sides.Garry Monk is hoping that his team can consolidate their position inside the play-off places, knowing that a win will still leave them eight points behind the top 2. But with Fulham emerging as viable contenders for the top 6, Leeds know that they can ill afford any substantial slip-ups.
Leeds United v Brighton & Hove Albion | Saturday 18 March | Elland Road | 19:30
To Win (90 Minutes)
Leeds 43/20 | Draw 43/20 | Brighton 5/4
Garry Monk’s rather ignominious sacking at Swansea City would have left lesser individuals a bit downbeat and disillusioned. Monk has taken over at Leeds and shown his professionalism by fashioning a tough side that is pushing for promotion this season. They play an uncomplicated style of football that stands in stark contrast to Brighton. They rely on a no-nonsense defensive line-up that will be without Luke Ayling through suspension this week. Kalvin Phillips is also suspended, leaving Monk with some selection issues.
Liam Bridcutt may come into midfield while Charlie Taylor deputises at right-back. Left-back Gaetano Berardi is going to be in for a tough game with the dynamic Anthony Knockaert cutting in off that right-hand side. They are extremely dependent on Chris Wood for their goals. The tall New Zealander has been inspirational for Leeds and will look to exploit a Brighton side missing Shane Duffy. Leeds will look to contain the game and deny any width to the formidable attacking threat posed by Brighton.
Brighton have scored 13 more goals than Leeds this season and currently look in fine fiddle going forward. Their counterattacking talent was shown against Derby, with Knockaert and Sam Baldock displaying their abilities on the break. They are without defender Shane Duffy, but Lewis Dunk and Uwe Hunemeier have formed a formidable central defensive partnership and will feel confident of containing a slightly unimaginative Leeds side.
With Huddersfield breathing down their necks, Hughton will be eying out victory here against a Leeds side that has drawn their last two matches. Glenn Murray has lent his Premier League expertise in leading their line while Baldock buzzes around him in a traditional ‘big one- little one’ scenario. Inspirational captain Bruno looks on the verge of signing a new contract and will no doubt be keen on sealing any doubts he may have with a victory here.
Verdict: Away to Score In Both Halves - Yes - 26/10
I just think that Brighton’s counterattacking style will be perfectly suited to this match, with Leeds also keen for victory in an attempt to solidify their hold on a playoff spot. Brighton are an energetic side and I think they will breach Leeds either side of half time. There wasn’t too much value in backing them for the away win and Leeds were sloppy in their last home match, drawing 0-0.