1 min: And we’re off. Brentford kick off and loft the ball towards Toney, who challenges well in the air and gets away a left-foot snapshot from an angle. It flies over, but that’s a strong first six seconds from the visitors.
The teams are out and game faces are on. As are gloves. Whatever happened to the snood, eh?
@hankbobbym tweets in: “Managerial LinkedIn top dog has to be Brendan Rodgers and his Brentian nonsense. ‘One of my strengths is I learn, and I like to learn from all sorts of people in all walks of life.’”
A good point well made. Rodgers is a terrific coach but he doesn’t half love a bit of management-speak. My own favorite of his is “You can live without water for many days, but you can’t live for a second without hope”, but it’s a matter of personal taste.
And here’s our man at Elland Road, Will Unwin:
It is cold and Leeds have not won in the Premier League since early November but Elland Road is packed with fans hoping this is the day the team clicks. Jesse Marsch says he can see an improvement each week and a morale-boosting FA Cup win over Cardiff means there is reason to be hopeful but Brentford have not lost in seven and know how to open up defences, especially one as porous as Leeds
“Brentford fan here,” writes Alex Ross. “Despite recent form, I’m Gnonto confident of a result. Hopefully we can damage it, though.” Oh dear.
“Really looking forward to this one,” writes Shaun Tooze. “On paper it looks like an end-to-end headcase of a game. Love the spirit and craziness of Leeds, and Brentford have really impressed this season, with some very big names getting turned over. I’m expecting a ding-dong classic. So, 0-0 then eh.”
On that’s note, who’s the must LinkedIn manager? Eddie Howe and Graham Potter stand out most obviously to me – both painfully earnest and not shy of a bit of meaningless management-speak. Marco Silva too has a strong whiff of LinkedIn. Any more for any more?
Some pre-match reading: Louise Taylor on Leeds’ abundance of attacking options … and their manager’s arrival on LinkedIn:
March tells Sky Sports that his side needs to “find ways to not give up goals”. Quite right.
So Jesse Marsch is given Max Wober his first start at the heart of Leeds’ beleaguered defense and rewards youngster Wilfried Gnonto for his classy brace against Cardiff by keeping him in the side, up top with Rodrigo. It means there’s plenty of firepower on the home bench, in the form of Patrick Bamford, Georginio Rutter and Luis Sinisterra. Thomas Frank brings in Rico Henry and Mads Roerslev, who will likely man the flanks either side of a back three.
Leeds: Measles; Ayling, Struijk, Koch, Wober; Adams, Roca, Aaronson, Harrison; Rodrigo, Gnonto. Subs: Robles, Firpo, Llorente, Kristensen, Greenwood, Sinisterra, Bamford, Rutter, Gelhardt.
Brentford: Raya; Roerslev, Ajey, Pinnock, Mee; Henry, Norgaard, Jensen, Dasilva; Mbeumo, Toney. Subs: Strakosha, Hickey, Schade, Wissa, Zanke, Ghoddos, Lewis-Potter, Damsgaard, Janeit.
Not-quite-unstoppable force, meet not-quite-immovable object. With his team winless in the league since November and tumbling towards the relegation zone, Jesse Marsch is running out of road. And with a back-to-back double-header against in-form rivals Manchester United looming, he needs points quickly. Meanwhile Thomas Frank and his gang are dreaming of Europe, unbeaten since October and playing with a carefree fearlessness that has seen off Liverpool and both Manchester clubs already this season.
Having spent the season conceding about two goals a game, you’d think any turnaround in fortunes for Marsch would hinge on a tightening up of the defence. In reality, his greatest hope right now looks to be at the other end of the pitch, where Patrick Bamford has just returned from injury – with two impishly taken goals against Cardiff midweek – and the club’s record signing, striker Georginio Rutter, has just arrived in town from Hoffenheim.
Add into the mix one of the club’s few reliable performers this term in Rodrigo, plus youngster Wilfried Gnonto, also the scorer of a splendid brace midweek, and you’ve got yourself a team who could well keep themselves up on goals alone. Will Coach Marsch prove himself a cut-price Keegan? He’d surely take it.
Ace for Brentford, a win today would take them to the heady heights of sixth, and within touching distance of Spurs. They have spent the season showing up their moneyed peers and there’s nothing to suggest this run of form can’t be sustained until the finish line. Frank’s team are elegant, organized and boast one of the division’s most dependable goalscorers in Ivan Toney.
Toney registered a glorious hat-trick (penalty, free-kick, long-range chip) in the reverse fixture in September and the smart money would surely be on his side coming out on top today. Then again, their opponents are reaching do-or-die territory, and Elland Road on a Sunday afternoon is a menacing prospect for anyone. Over to you, Leeds.
Kick-off 2pm GMT.