Championship Friday – Leeds United v Derby County

Friday night Championship Football returns, and there’s already been some drama between the clubs before the lineups are even settled.

Leeds United, tops in the league table (though not as high in our current Power Rankings), will welcome Derby County (currently 6th in the league) to Elland Road. Leeds is looking to maintain their lead at the top of the table, while Derby County looks to maintain their spot in the playoffs.

But news has broke over the past few days of a Leeds employee nosing around the Derby County training ground, with motives not yet 100% clear. Derby is still considering whether to file a formal complaint, though rumors persist that the FA is going to investigate regardless. Nevertheless, it’s simply silly that a Leeds employee, even without ulterior motives, was spotted near the grounds so close to this important match.

Let’s take a look at the clubs:

The Records

As mentioned, Leeds United is currently in first place in the Championship with 51 points (15-6-5). However, for the first time all season, they are coming off two consecutive losses – to Hull City (2-0) and Nottingham Forest (4-2) – and are looking to get back to winning, if only to hold off Norwich City, whom they currently lead by two points. Luckily for Leeds, however, Norwich has their own match against a top six club in West Bromwich Albion to contend with.

Derby County is currently in sixth place with 43 points (12-7-7), which is four points ahead of Nottingham Forest in seventh. Those 43 points also tie them with Middlesbrough, and Derby County only trails based on goal differential. Derby is in the midst of a 1-3-1 stretch, with the win against Norwich City and the loss against Sheffield United, so it’s not like they were struggling against the dregs of the league.

The Previous Match-Up

These clubs met in Derby on Matchday 2, which resulted in a dominant 4-1 victory for Leeds. Mateusz Klich started the scoring for Leeds early, finding home a mere five minutes into the match. Not to be outdone, Derby County evened things up in the 12th minute on a goal from Tom Lawrence, and many thought the match was going to be a back and forth affair.

Kemar Roofe gave Leeds the lead again, scoring less than ten minutes later, and United held onto a 2-1 lead at the half time break. Derby was unable to find another goal in the second half, while Rolfe (60′) and Ezgjan Alioski (64′) scored less than five minutes apart to put the match away for the visitors.

Home and Away Results

As the road club in this one, Derby County is at a disadvantage, though they haven’t been exactly terrible on the road this season. In 13 matches away from Pride Park Stadium, they have a 6-2-5 record, scoring 20 goals (1.54 per match), while surrendering 18 goals (1.38 per match). They don’t have much margin for error in general, but it’s even closer for them on the road.

Leeds United has definitely used their home pitch to their advantage as they climbed up the table. They boast a 8-3-2 record at Elland Road, scoring 21 goals (1.62 per match), while surrendering only 10 (0.77 per match). Five of those victories were clean sheets (they also had a 0-0 draw at home this season).

Scorers and Defense, Oh My!

The aformentioned Kemar Roofe leads Leeds (ha!) in scoring, netting 13 goals in 20 appearances in the Championship this season, tied for sixth in the league. The club is also strong at the backend, with keeper Bailey Peacock-Farrell sixth in the league with nine clean sheets (with those six at home as previously mentioned).

Derby County has scored fewer overall goals on the season and they may be without leading scorer Harry Wilson (9 goals in Championship play), who sat out during FA Cup action over the past weekend. If Wilson can’t make a go of it, Jack Marriott is next on the squad with seven goals.

How I See It

A Leeds United victory would mark their first season double over Derby County since the 2001-02 season, and they definitely have the advantage due to playing it home. Plus, they really need to get back in the winning column, if only to keep Norwich City and others at bay at the top of the table.

As stated, a victory (or even a draw) for Derby County would allow them to maintain their position in the playoff race, and against a higher-placed team, garnering one point would be the minimum measure of success for Frank Lampard’s squad. A loss wouldn’t push them out of playoff position due to their four point lead, and a match against Reading next week should be an easy three points to keep up pace regardless.

Still, Leeds has been the better club despite their recent mini-slump, and I think they are going to come away with the full three points in this one and lock up that season double over Derby.

My prediction: Leeds United 2 – 1 Derby County
Actual result: Leeds United 2-0 Derby County

Until next time…

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