West Brom welcomes Leeds United to The Hawthorns on Wednesday as the battle for the championship title contenders begins.
Albion and Leeds both occupy nine points ahead of the pack of chases, led by Fulham in third place, but this meeting will mean more than the three points offered – at least that’s Slaven Bilic’s take of things.
In view of the meeting against the whites, we got in step Joe Mewis of LeedsLive for the latest news on Elland Road.
How are they forming? Are they confident? What are the concerns?
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You can follow our West Brom reporter Joseph Chapman on chirpingand his email address is Joseph.Chapman@reachplc.com
How was the festive season for Leeds?
It was a mixed bag in terms of results, with the victory in Birmingham ensuring that a blip didn’t become too much to worry about.
The stalemate defeat by Fulham and Preston was not ideal, but with other results largely in favor of Leeds, that all the major gap in third place remained largely intact.
The victory of 5-4 St Andrew is one of the most bizarre games that you will see throughout the season and it is difficult to draw too many solid conclusions from such a strange game, but the great concern during the festive period was the defense.
Leeds have conceded only ten goals in their first 21 league games, but have played many in their last four games.
In the absence of Pablo Hernandez, who are the key men?
Mateusz Klich switched to the central offensive midfielder in the absence of Hernandez, but he is a very different player, which means that the creative tasks have shifted to the sides.
Helder Costa and Jack Harrison are both very dangerous, as evidenced by the Birmingham opener, where the pair bombed forward and combined for Costa on the net.
Baggies’ old boyfriend, Tyler Roberts, is in good shape again and could be a contender to join Bielsa’s attacker on The Hawthorns.
How does the feeling with the club compare to last season?
The scars from last season’s slump are still far too raw and any slight drop in form will trigger a collective sense of PTSD among fans, but there is a general feeling that the whole thing is a little more robust this year.
The luck due to injury was better, the players now have 18 months of work with the intense methods of Bielsa and the coach himself will know the league better.
What have you done with the West Brom season so far?
Noteworthy. The fact that they have been unbeaten for so long after the defeat of Elland Road says a lot and in a season where the overall standard in the championship is probably lower, it would be a shock not to see them finish the season in the first two.
As for Leeds’ chances, there is room for cautious optimism, but I liked Bielsa’s grip after the Birmingham win.
No one would have been able to predict how Leeds’ last four games would go, he said, so how can the next 20 be predicted?
I will go down the fence and wear my optimistic hat. 2-1 Leeds.