Why The Goals Will Finally Flow When Shot-Shy Leeds Face Derby

First win of the season?
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If we're being honest, Pride Park (I'm not calling it "the iPro") hasn't been the happiest of hunting grounds for Leeds over the past decade. In fact, you have to go back to 2002 for the last time Leeds came away from Derby with all three points, Lee Bowyer scoring the only goal in a 1-0 win.

Up until last season, the very idea of playing Derby was enough to make Leeds fans feel slightly nauseous, with the 2-0 win at Elland Road in November bringing an end to a run of 12 games without a win against the Rams (11 of those ending in defeat). There was a certain poignancy added to the streak by one Neil Warnock, who proudly stated that Derby would never face a "pushover" Leeds team again after losing 2-0 in one of his first games as manager. Around 365 days later, Leeds were beaten 2-1 by Derby after leading 1-0. Warnock was sacked after the game. Don't laugh, come on... With both teams sat on four points after four consecutive draws this season, could we be looking at yet another deadlock come Saturday?

Derby will be desperate to get back on track after a slow start to the season, especially after their cataclysmic end to the 14-15 campaign that saw them slip out of the play-offs right at the death, losing 3-0 to Reading at home, allowing Brentford to sneak into the top six.

Their squad is one of the more impressive in the division, a strong mixture of talented youth and experienced heads, with a boss in Paul Clement that may be new to the management game, but has extensive experience as a coach, including a two-year spell on the sidelines at Real Madrid. However, despite boasting an attack that features the likes of Johnny Russell, Chris Martin, Darren Bent and Tom Ince, Derby are yet to score more than one goal in a game this season, a situation Leeds will no doubt look to exploit.

Aside from the late capitulation at Bristol, the Leeds defence has looked fairly strong so far this season. Sol Bamba has continued his fine form from the first half of 2015, while Charlie Taylor and Gaetano Berardi have been near-faultless in the opening four games.

Leeds have become tough to break down, but have suffered the same problem as Derby; not enough goals. That, however, looks to be something the team are addressing, and with Mirco Antenucci and Chris Wood both on two for the season, the confidence to put a few more away might just be coming into the squad, while the prospect of a few more additions to the cause is a promising sign as well.

The transfer saga of Fernando Forestieri is, supposedly, off, after the Watford forward made it clear that he was unwilling to make the move up north, which could also scupper Sheffield Wednesday's supposed interest. Cue the disgruntled shouts of "He's rubbish anyway" from the fanbase en-masse.

Movement on NEC winger Anthony Limbombe seems to have stalled while the Forestieri deal has been worked on, but the Belgian is still an option with an apparent interest in making the switch to West Yorkshire. With Cellino apparently willing to shell out around £3 million for Forestieri alone, Limbombe may be a cheaper alternative, freeing up funds to bring in another defensive option. Recent whisperings around the prospect of bringing Wolves winger Rajiv van La Parra to Elland Road are getting louder too, but there doesn't seem to be much weight behind the rumours just yet.

Leeds could welcome Lewis Cook back to the starting lineup after serving his three match suspension, but Rosler seems keen to reward good form rather than stick to a preferred XI, which means that Cook may have to earn his chance after impressive displays from Kalvin Phillips, Tom Adeyemi and Luke Murphy in his absence. Wood and Antenucci are fairly untouchable in the attacking quartet, but Sam Byram's recent displays could see him replaced on the right-wing by Stuart Dallas after the latter's performance in the second-half against Sheffield Wednesday. Dallas was almost unplayable on the right hand side, and looked much more willing to test the Wednesday back line than Byram had done. Alex Mowatt could return to the starting side in his place, possibly alternating the LW/AM spot with Antenucci.

Derby will be boosted by the return of Jamie Hanson and Jeff Hendrick from injury, but will still be without Craig Bryson going into Saturday's lunch time kick off. The highly-rated Will Hughes will not feature either after suffering a knee injury that will keep him out for up to six months. Hughes is often looked to as the brightest light (no, come on, stop) in the Championship youth-ranks and regularly touted for a move to a Premier League team. While it's certainly a positive for Leeds for him not to be there, you do hope as a football fan that his injury doesn't affect his development.

Johnny Russell is Derby's current main goal threat, sitting on two for the season and will want to head into the international break on a high after being called up to the Scotland squad. County also have Chris Martin, Darren Bent and Andreas Weimann waiting to pick up anything Russell can't put away.

The attacking options for Leeds are considerably lighter if Wood and Antenucci fail to make an impact. Souleymane Doukara has been favoured by Rosler so far this season, but a goal in Monday's U-21 game will have served Lee Erwin's case for selection well, the young Scot cutting inside from the left with his first touch, before squeezing the ball into the bottom corner as Leeds beat Sheffield Utd 2-1 at Elland Road.

Rosler has been reluctant to use Erwin so far, but Doukara's performances have been lacklustre at best, and will surely be causing Uwe to look elsewhere for an attacking impact. In the same vein, Luke Murphy's display and wonder-goal in the same U-21 game will add fuel to the idea of him starting a game for the first time this season. His introduction last week along with Mowatt changed the game, bringing a discipline to the midfield that had been missing in the first half.

My prediction: 2-2.

It's an odd one this. I reckon either team could win the game if they take a risk, but for some reason I don't see either of them doing it. If one side does win, then I reckon it'll be 3-1 either way, but I'm plumping on yet another draw.


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