Leeds v Derby: Whites ready to book their place at Wembley

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CHAMPIONSHIP specialist James O'Rourke (@JamesOR1) shares his thoughts on Wednesday night's play-off semi-final second leg showdown between Leeds and Derby.

Leeds v Derby | Wednesday 15th May 2019, 19:45 | Sky Sports

There are a few unwritten rules when it comes to the play-offs in terms of things you cannot really afford to do. One of those is to lose the first leg when having home advantage.

That is exactly what Derby did, and rightly so. A disappointing performance from the Rams, a view also echoed by Frank Lampard, has given them an uphill task to make it to Wembley. Kiko Casilla in the Leeds goal had a relatively quiet evening all things considered, and a fine team goal down the other end that was taken by Kemar Roofe gives Leeds a one-goal head start going into leg two.

Do we have to credit Leeds for how well they played not just going forward but also defensively? Was it the effectiveness of the away side why Derby struggled on the night? I guess the easy answer to that is a bit of both. Nevertheless, Leeds were under a bit of pressure heading into this one, and you wouldn’t have guessed that was the case after 90 minutes.

Derby were ultimately the ones with the momentum, they had lost just once in 12 before Saturday after all. Leeds, on the flip side, were winless in four, including a setback to rock bottom Ipswich. Maybe Derby ran their race just by getting to the play-offs. What did look clear was that Marcelo Bielsa and his side looked on a mission, and they’ll be determined to get the job done at Elland Road on Wednesday night.

One thing Derby most certainly need to do in this upcoming encounter is score. They only really had a few half openings at Pride Park. Then again, should we really be surprised that was the case? We only need to look at the two earlier season meetings between these two. Leeds cantered to a 2-0 home win in January, whilst they were heavy 4-1 victors on the second weekend of the campaign.

Derby of course scored in that game, but it was a direct free kick from Tom Lawrence that should probably have been saved by Bailey Peacock-Farrell. Major improvement is required, and it is now will we really see the qualities of Frank Lampard. Can he produce a tactical masterclass? Bielsa is known for such traits, and the Argentinian will undoubtedly have several more ideas of his own as to how to combat any potential renaissance from Derby.

Leeds deserve defensive respect

We perhaps don’t give Leeds enough credit for what they do defensively. I guess that is just the modern day thinking of those who watch football. A team is essentially judged because of what they offer going forward.

Leeds were only one of six Championship sides to score 70+ goals this season, however Leeds did have the third-best defensively record, too. Only Sheffield United, Middlesbrough and Stoke City kept more clean sheets than they did in the 46-game regular season. Derby only earned 11.

In some respects, we shouldn’t have been completely shocked by Derby falling short on Saturday. Their record against those above them in the table perhaps didn’t inspire much confidence. I am one who subscribes to the notion that form going into the play-offs isn’t everything, and in-form Derby nil out of sorts Leeds one at the weekend backs up that point. In the 10 meetings to the top-five, Derby lose half of those. They did win four, although two were versus West Brom.

Something which also doesn’t offer that much hope for Derby on Wednesday is that they’re far too inconsistent away from home. For all that they won at champions Norwich and play-off side West Brom, they also failed to beat any of the bottom four, losing three of those and earning a draw at Ipswich.

Leeds however didn’t necessarily blow the world alight at home against the top-half teams though. They lost to both Norwich and Sheffield United, but a 50% record versus those sides maybe isn’t so bad. The reality is that past form becomes even more irrelevant now the first leg is out the way, as both teams can’t ignore the fact it is 0-1 on aggregate.

Whites to book place at Wembley

I think we can all envisage Derby having a go in this one. Why on earth wouldn’t they? I guess it looks more likely than unlikely that this still might not be enough for them to overturn a 1-0 deficit, especially as they seemed to look void of ideas in attack on Saturday.

They may some hope from the fact that Leeds probably won’t sit back in this one. They’ll probably approach this as normal, trying to control the ball and create chances. That was the pattern at the weekend, with Derby only really looking a threat towards the end.

The problem is if Derby do the same of Wednesday, then they’re not leaving themselves much time at all. There is every chance Leeds will score on the night anyway, so Lampard’s team may need 2+ goals at the very least.

I can’t look beyond Leeds now making Wembley. To be honest, I don’t think Derby showed enough in leg one to suggest they can turn matters around. For all that Leeds go the 1-0 win, they can still play an awful lot better than that. If they do on Wednesday, then that’ll end Derby’s season once and for all.

Leeds to win ‘to nil’ will be the selection, and it is an attractive 9/4 (Sky Bet) chance. This ultimately paid off in the first leg, and whilst no two games are ever the same, I’m left wondering exactly how Derby will break this Leeds team down, given their struggles in now three previous meetings this season.

Best Bets

Leeds v Derby – Leeds to win ‘to nil’ (9/4 Sky Bet)

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