While the disappointment of last weekend’s home defeat to Sheffield United is still fresh, Albion travel to Yorkshire on Friday evening with a chance to put themselves right back in the mix for automatic promotion.
Victory at Leeds would see them move to within one point of the Whites following their midweek defeat at Loftus Road, and just three behind league leaders, Norwich City, ahead of the remaining weekend fixtures. The Canaries face a tricky trip to Millwall on Saturday while second-placed Sheffield United, on the same points as Leeds, face the short trip to Hillsborough for the Steel City Derby on Monday evening. The table could look very different come Tuesday morning.
Obviously, the key task from a Baggies point of view is to take all three points at Elland Road, something they have managed just once in the last 40 years. Darren Moore’s team should approach the game with confidence, however, given their current form on the road and the knowledge that they have outwitted Marco Bielsa once this season already resulting in the landmark 4-1 home victory back in November.
Furthermore, Leeds will have had just two full days to recover from their game at QPR on Tuesday evening. The midweek game certainly looked to have had an impact on the Albion squad last weekend, and with Bielsa keen on operating with a small squad, fatigue is something that could work in the Baggies’ favour on Friday evening.
While there has been much debate as to whether Darren Moore needs to change the formation at home, but away from the Hawthorns, the 4-3-3 has been working extremely well resulting in victory in eight of Albion’s last nine league games on the road.
Having said that, Marco Bielsa is well known for his meticulous preparation in terms of how the opposition play, and Moore got the better of Leeds at the Hawthorns by a change in tactics to those he had employed to date. It would not surprise me if Big Dave has used this week to make some changes to the approach with a view to catching Bielsa unawares once again.
Bielsa’s squad has been hit by injuries with former Baggies striker, Kemar Roofe, the most notable of the players who will be missing from the Leeds side on Friday. Midfielder Adam Forshaw is also expected to miss out as he is still recovering from a knee injury while winger, Jack Clarke, is a doubt having missed the last few games with a virus.
Moore has his own injury problems with the ankle problem that forced Ahmed Hegazi to leave the pitch in the second half of the Sheffield United clash the most concerning. It seems unlikely that the Egyptian will be fit for Friday, while Hal Robson-Kanu, who put in a man-of-the-match performance in the reverse fixture in November, is also a doubt having missed the last two games.
Adarabioyo played well when he came on against the Blades but his inclusion in the squad would mean that one of Montero, Murphy or Johansen would miss out due to the five loan player rule. Murphy was rested on Saturday having felt a slight muscle strain ahead of the game, but his performance against QPR seems likely to earn him a place in the squad should he be fit.
Hegazi’s absence does mean that Moore will have to shuffle the pack with his loan players and it’s not necessarily a straightforward choice. Personally, I think that Phillips would be better suited in midfield than as one of the front three as he was against the Blades. His dynamism in the middle of the park has been missed and I’d like to see him return to that position, potentially alongside Barry and either Livermore or Harper.
Johansen is an option, but he could be the loanee to be left out if Hal Robson-Kanu isn’t fit. With the Welshman missing, one of either Montero or Murphy would start along side Rodriguez and Gayle with the other as an attacking option on the bench.
Obviously, this is on the assumption that Moore opts to stick with the 4-3-3 formation – if he doesn’t, all bets are off in terms of predicting the starting line-up!
There is no doubt that Leeds are in poor form at the moment and a late season slump is something that Bielsa’s previous teams have experienced in the past. Hopefully, Albion can take advantage of that and come away with all three points.
The Baggies haven’t lost at Elland Road for more than 20 years, with their last defeat coming in a Division Two match in November 1988 when John Durnin gave Albion the lead only for goals from Mark Aizlewood and Ian Baird to give the hosts the points.
Admittedly, Albion have only visited Leeds on three occasions since then, two of which finished in a draw, with their most recent trip being their only victory at Elland Road since 1978. That latest victory was for Tony Mowbray’s team in January 2007 when Tore André Flo opened the scoring for the hosts before the Baggies hit back with a goal from Jonathan Greening and a brace from Diomansy Kamara to lead 3-1 at the break. Alan Thompson pulled one back for Leeds in the second half but Albion held on for the win.
Leeds were relegated to the third tier for the first time in their history that season, and spent three seasons there, not returning to the Championship until the season after Albion were promoted back to the Premier League in 2010.
The Baggies previous win at Elland Road was during Ron Atkinson’s first spell at the Hawthorns. In October 1978, Bomber Brown gave Albion the lead before Bryon Stevenson equalised for Leeds. It seemed to be heading for a draw before the late great Cyrille Regis popped up with two late goals to send the Baggies home with both points.
Albion’s biggest win at the stadium came in February 1960 when Gordon Clark was in charge at the Baggies. David Burnside and Derek Hogg gave Albion an early 2-0 lead before Derek Kevan made it three in the second half. Burnside scored his season with five minutes to go with John McCole scoring a late consolation goal for the hosts from the spot to make it 4-1.
The Whites’ record win over the Baggies was in the FA Cup in February 1967. Rod Belfitt and Peter Lorimer both grabbed a pair each, with Paul Madeley also scoring in a comprehensive 5-0 win for Don Revie’s team who ultimately lost out to Chelsea in the semi-final.
Of course, the most infamous game between the sides was in April 1971. Albion were battling against relegation while Leeds were fighting for the title with Arsenal. The Baggies were already 1-0 up when Norman Hunter hit the ball off Tony Brown and it rebounded into the Leeds half where Colin Suggett was standing in an off side position. In a situation that would not be considered off side today, Brown ran forward ignoring the linesman’s flag. He hesitated but there was no whistle, and he was through on goal, ultimately laying it on for Astle to tap in a simple goal. Suggett was never involved in the move, but in those days, the concept of “interfering with play” was more aligned to Brian Clough’s interpretation (“If he’s not interfering with play, what’s he doing in the pitch?”) than the one that is adhered to today. Leeds lost the game 2-1 and Arsenal ultimately won the title by one point.
Baggies to continue their impressive away form and take all three points.
All competitions; most recent game on the right
10 Nov 2018 – League Championship
West Brom 4 (Robson-Kanu, Phillips, Barnes, Gayle)
Leeds United 1 (Hernández)
Last meeting at Leeds United
20 Jan 2007 – League Championship
Leeds United 2 (Flo, Thompson)
West Brom 3 (Greening, Kamara (2))
Albion’s Record against Leeds United