The postponed fixture from last year is finally upon us, as Nottingham Forest travel to Elland Road as they face Leeds United in a match-up that could shape this season’s relegation battle.
Last weekend, Leeds faced the daunting task of facing Arsenal in North London. The Lilywhites, as expected, got turned over at the Emirates losing 4-1 as Arsenal extended their lead at the top of the Premier League. Depending on Everton’s result against Tottenham tonight, Leeds could find themselves in the bottom three ahead of tomorrow night’s kick-off. Javi Gracia will be desperate to get three points and pull his side out of the dreaded drop zone.
This is a must win for both sides, but Nottingham Forest will certainly be feeling more of the pressure. Steve Cooper’s future was in doubt before last weekends draw against Wolves. Brennan Johnson’s eight goal of the campaign is enough to keep his head above water, anything but a draw could see Cooper treading on very thin ice at the City Ground. Forest’s form away from home has been abysmal this season, after a positive performance against Wolves can the Reds turn round their fortunes on the road?
WHEN AND WHERE:
Where: Elland Road, Leeds
When: 4th April 2023
Referee: Robert Jones.
Assistants: Ian Hussin, Wade Smith.
Fourth official: Michael Salisbury.
VAR: Stuart Attwell.
Assistant VAR: Richard West.
Reports have been circling for a while now that Nottingham Forest’s injury list was shrinking in size, and weren’t they right. Last weekend saw both Taiwo Awoniyi and Cheikhou Kouyate return to action, for short but impressive cameo appearances. Serge Aurier could be fit for Tuesday night’s fixture, but Ryan Yates and a handful of other first-teamers will again be out injured. Looking at the impressive performance of Forest’s midfield trio against Wolves, I don’t think there will be too many concerns about Yates absence – Cooper finally has a strong squad back on his hands.
Leeds are without a number of key personnel, including; Tyler Adamas, Maximilian Wober and Wilfried Gnonto. The loss of Gnonto has put increased pressure on Leeds’ front three, with Gracia chopping and changing his attack in recent weeks. With such a crucial fixture approaching, it will be interesting to see who Gracia put’s his trust in on Tuesday night.
As I say in most away previews, Nottingham Forest couldn’t get much worse away from the City Ground. The Reds often look lifeless and limp when playing on the road, could that change on Tuesday? Steve Cooper has brought out the fighting talk recently, saying the away form needs to change, and it needs to change now. Looking at their recent performance against Wolves, Forest could carry their momentum to Elland Road with belief that they are one of the better sides in the relegation scrap.
Morgan Gibbs-White played out of his skin last weekend, excellent at finding pockets of space and creating chances for those around him. It’s the type of quality Forest have been waiting for from their record signing – if he can play like that on Tuesday it could be a long night for the Leeds defence. Alongside him, Dennis and Johnson have both started to flourish in the Forest attack, suggesting they could be hitting form just in time to guide Forest away from the bottom three.
Javi Gracia has had a rather inconsistent start to life in West Yorkshire, winning two, losing two and drawing one of his first five Premier League goes – with the law of averages suggest another stalemate tomorrow night. The Spaniard has managed to add goals into the Leeds attack, scoring two against Brighton, Four against Wolves and still finding the net away at Arsenal. This new found goal threat could be crucial against a side so goal shy away from home, with just one goal likely to decide the fixture for the hosts.
Leeds United – Jack Harrison
In the absence of Gnonto, Leeds needed someone to step up and Jack Harrison has been that man. In his last five games, Harrison has two goals and two assists, quickly establishing himself as a key man under his new manager. He’s had quite the impact in recent weeks. especially in the last home against Brighton where he played a role in both goals. With the ability to play on both flanks, and Forest likely to be without Aurier, Harrison could be set for an ideal match-up against Neco Williams.
Nottingham Forest – Felipe
Felipe has been nothing short of exceptional since arriving in England. The 33-year-old has been incredible at the back for Nottingham Forest, looking like a stand out player when he pulls on the Garibaldi. With Niakhate back in the fold, you’ll be hard pushed to find a better pairing in the relegation scrap. Felipe was one again solid against a rather lackluster Wolves attack last weekend. Leeds will pose a different challenge, boasting one of the best attacks in the bottom-half – but there is no doubt Felipe will be up for the battle.
MUST READ: Could Felipe be the best signing Nottingham Forest made this season?
Leeds United: Meslier, Firpo, Strujik, Cooper, Ayling, Roca, McKennie, Summerville, Aaronson, Harrison, Rodrigo
Nottingham Forest: Navas, Lodi, Felipe, Niakhate, Williams, Freuler, Mangala, Danilo, Gibbs-White, Dennis, Johnson