It's one of the strange facets of football, this sport we all love (and often despise) so much, that the natural reaction to facing a team that were very recently tanked 5-1 is to instantly play down your chances of winning. Assistant Manager Rob Kelly was on hand this week to preview tonight's visit of Mick McCarthy's side, making sure to get across the fact that Leeds would be up for a test, as Ipswich would be gunning to put their nightmare visit to Reading on Friday night behind them. A non-devotee to this most frustrating of sports would likely ask why Leeds should be worried about a side that were so ruthlessly decimated by former Fulham benchwarmer Orlando Sa (although I'd then ask, "How do you know about Orlando Sa?") but the reality is that Kelly is right to be cautious, especially when it comes to a side like Ipswich.
Losing by such a large margin is never nice, of course, and the Suffolk side will be feeling a bit of pressure following 2 defeats on the bounce after a solid start to the season, but there are few managers who command more respect in this league than Mick McCarthy, and there's no doubt that the straight-talking Yorkshireman will be expecting his squad to pick up the pieces at Elland Road tonight. I mean, just look at the guy, how could you not want to go out and win for that face? I imagine when he says "good job, lad", a little twinkle appears in his eye, just to let you know how proud he is of you. In response, it's up to Rob Kelly and co. to make sure that the home side take full advantage of any lapses in confidence or concentration that come from McCarthy's team. With Mick publicly backing his first choice 'keeper Dean Gerken after his personal horror-show at Reading, Leeds have to be ruthless tonight, a stark contrast to Saturday's first half performance against Brentford.
Kelly & Rosler have a full contingent to pick from this evening, with no fresh injury worries following the weekend's game. Jordan Botaka is unlikely to feature after playing the full 90 minutes for the U21s yesterday (a 3-0 win over Bristol City), but Mirco Antenucci and Luke Murphy will both be expecting a starting spot after once again changing the game against Brentford at the weekend. Antenucci could, and perhaps should, have come away with more than 1 goal on Saturday, and an Ipswich defence low on confidence after shipping 8 goals in their last 2 games should find it tough to deal with the Italian's blossoming partnership with Chris Wood. Murphy's presence in the midfield will allow Leeds to control the flow of the game from the outset, instead of introducing him later in proceedings to calm things down.
If Murphy and Antenucci do start tonight, it will be interesting to see how Rosler sets his team up, considering his stern response to questions regarding the effectiveness of his preferred 4-3-3 formation following the team's 5th draw of the season on Saturday. Antenucci has been clear about his desire not to be played on the wing, and has so far thrived when playing just behind Wood, but Rosler may feel that the Italian could be a potential replacement for Sam Byram on the right hand side of the attack, after a series of faltering performances from the youngster. Antenucci may not want to play on the wing, but that's not really his decision at the end of the day.
I bet he'd do it if Mick McCarthy asked him.
Ipswich's line-up, aside from the aforementioned Gerken, is hard to predict following their heavy defeat on Friday. McCarthy will presumably not want to make wholesale changes, but must feel that certain players won't be up to the task against a Leeds side that have proven difficult to break down this season. Last season's top scorer Daryl Murphy could return after injury, meaning whoever Rosler picks as his two centre-backs will have to be a lot stronger than Bamba and Cooper looked at times on Saturday. Bamba in particular looked well off his usual standards, leaving Cooper to do a lot more of the dirty work than usual. Hopefully this was just a blip in an otherwise stellar season so far from the big Ivorian, who attempted to stop a Brentford attack by simply falling over at one point. Spoiler - it didn't work.
H&S Prediction: 2-1
This is a tough game to call, but I'm hoping that Leeds will take a lesson from Saturday's game and hit Ipswich early, instead of allowing them to take control of the game. The one thing Ipswich will want is to feel in control of proceedings, so Rosler needs to make sure that they never have that advantage. Murphy and Cook in the middle of the park will disrupt the opposition, while Antenucci and Wood up top will trouble the out-of-shape defence, especially with Stuart Dallas backing them up. A repeat of last season's 2-1 win at Elland Road against an extremely resilient Ipswich side would be a great result, but don't expect McCarthy's men to simply roll over yet again.
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