Leeds United closing in on magical 50-point mark
Leeds United can hit the much vaunted 50-point mark if they can make it four wins on the trot in their West Yorkshire derby with Huddersfield Town at Elland Road on Saturday.
After flirting with a relegation battle a trio of victories, all by the same 2-1 margin, have suddenly lifted the Whites up to 13th in the Sky Bet Championship table.
With third from bottom Rotherham collecting seven points in the same week it has highlighted the value of the wins. Three losses and United would have been just two points above the drop zone.
The winning hat-trick has only taken Leeds two points closer to safety, but they have now put plenty of teams between themselves and the bottom three and effectively should not need much more than one more win now to be sure of their place in the same division next year.
The fans would delight in that win coming against Huddersfield, who themselves still need points to ward off relegation fears.
They go into Saturday’s derby game in 18th, just six points above Rotherham and after looking safe just a few weeks ago they know they still have work to do to achieve their aim.
Town will be looking for revenge after losing 3-0 at home to Leeds in November in a result that, even by the admission of head coach Steve Evans, flattered the Whites.
It was 0-0 until goals in first half injury-time by Mirco Antenucci and Chris Wood suddenly put a different complexion on the match.
Huddersfield were then threatening a comeback with some good attacking play after the break only for United to hit them with a sucker punch in the guise of an Alex Mowatt stunner from 25 yards out.
Amazingly this was Leeds’ only league win by more than one goal all season, which shows what a battle it has been. But they have stumbled on a winning formula in the last week and Evans is likely to stick with the same formation and largely the same players for the derby game.
He does have a few selection decisions to make, chiefly whether to bring back striker Chris Wood after he made a late cameo appearance at Blackburn last Saturday.
But after six goals in the last three games it will be tough on Antenucci and Souleymane Doukara to be left out at this stage and the big money summer buy may have to make do with a substitute’s role as he eases his way back in following injuries that have only allowed him to start one game in 2016.
Evans may also have to make a decision on who to play at the back with Sol Bamba and Giuseppe Bellusci the men in possession, but Liam Cooper expected to be back from injury.
For Bamba it has been a massive turnaround following his nightmare game at Brighton as he gave a strong display in the win at Cardiff then was one of the goal scorers in the success at Blackburn.
He will feel he has done enough to keep his place in the side, but Cooper has played the most games of any of United’s centre-backs this season.
Cooper will want to prove his fitness after being given a surprise call-up by Scotland for their game against Denmark, along with Leeds’ on-loan midfielder Liam Bridcutt.
It is a first senior call-up for Cooper, who has previously represented Scotland at under 19s and under 17s level, while Bridcutt has one international cap, having made his debut in 2013.