Leeds United F.C. and Derby County F.C. will face off in the EFL Championship playoffs. While this tie might not seem that impressive given that this is the typical 3rd place against 6th place match up, this season has seen Leeds and Derby clash in what has become known as spy-gate.
Derby County came into the beginning of the season on a high note. The appointment of Chelsea legend Frank Lampard as the manager as well as Jody Morris serving as the assistant manager brought new hope to Rams supporters that they would see their club promoted to the Premier League.
Leeds United was also coming into the season with a new manager. Marcelo Bielsa was appointed in June of 2018 and went on to win his three opening matches. Something not done by a Leeds manager since the seventies. At the midway point of the season, Leeds United looked to be destined for automatic promotion to the Premier League. Unfortunately for The Whites, their form has slipped in 2019 and they are now hoping for a return to the top flight via the playoff.
Leeds United vs Derby County Albion Vital Information
This is a two-legged affair with the first leg being played on Saturday, May 11th when the two sides will clash at Pride Park Stadium in Derby. That match can be watched on ESPN+ with kickoff scheduled for 9:15 am PDT. The second leg will take place four days later on Wednesday, May 15th with kick-off scheduled for 11:45 am PDT at Elland Road. Again, the second leg can be seen on ESPN+.
Referee assignments have not been announced.
Five Points That Shouldn’t be Overlooked
There are a number of things to keep an eye on with this clash, but the biggest is the resurgence of the spy-gate narrative. Before these sides met in January, Marcelo Bielsa admitted that he had sent spies to Derby’s training ground. While this caused an uproar in the media, Bielsa seemingly thought it was not a big deal. Leeds was ultimately fined two hundred thousand pounds, which Bielsa paid out of his own pocket. While the matter has been settled I would imagine that both managers will be asked about the incident in the lead up to Saturday.
Going back to 2010, Derby has gotten the better of Leeds in their head to head matchups. During that time, the two clubs have faced each other on 18 occasions with Derby winning 10 and drawing 3. However, Leeds have not lost to Derby County in their last three matches. This season saw Leeds head to Pride Park on match day two and come away 4-1 winners. The reverse fixture had a similar outcome with Leeds winning 2-0. This will likely be on the mind of the Derby players as they look to make a run to the Premier League.
Patrick Bamford will miss the first leg of the tie having received a two-match ban for deceiving the referee in the melee that took place during the Aston Villa F.C. vs Leeds United match two weeks ago. This could be a huge miss for Leeds as Bamford is their second highest goal scorer. In the last three matches, Leeds has only managed to score three goals which have resulted in two losses and one draw.
If Derby County wants to have any chance of being promoted via the playoff it will come down to the play of Fikayo Tomori. The 21-year-old center back on loan from Chelsea has impressed this season winning the Jack Stamps Player of the Season Award, as well as the supporter’s player of the season award. In 44 appearances for the Rams, Tomori has scored one goal and earned one assist while only earning six yellow cards. This tells me that he has been disciplined while anchoring the center of the defense. He averages two tackles, two interceptions, one block, and four clearances per game. He will be key to the Rams success.
The final thing to know before these two fixtures are the current fun of form for each team. The Rams have been on the ascension as they pushed for the final playoff spot racking up three wins and two draws in the last five matches. For Leeds it has been the opposite, in five matches they finished with three losses, one draw, and one win. While form is not everything in football, we usually see the team that has momentum heading into the playoffs make those runs to Wembley Stadium.
Leeds United vs Derby County Prediction
Heading into this weekend, I would imagine that this would be a tight affair. My prediction is a 1-0 victory for the Rams at Pride Park, which will cause Leeds to have to push for a goal at Elland Road. In the second leg, I think that Derby could grab a goal against the run of play in a 1-1 draw. Although, it would be interesting to Leeds and Aston Villa meet at Wembley for promotion given the events that took place when they last met, but I believe that the Rams will be looking for have a party in London.