Leeds v Forest: clash of the sleeping giants


Dougie Freedman – www.express.co.uk

Leeds United and Nottingham Forest remain two massive clubs, and they are both underachieving in the Championship. Forest brought 2,700 fans to Elland Road last season and we can expect another strong away following from them here. Leeds have some of the most committed fans in the country and both clubs gave great backing, but have been let down by misguided ownership.

At least with Forest, there is a sense that owner Fawaz Al-Hasawi is learning. In the past he has sacked managers ruthlessly and a lack of stability had been a problem at the City Ground for a long time. In the last eight years only one manager had been in charge of the club for a full calendar year, that man being Billy Davies, who did so twice. On Sunday, Dougie Freedman became the second manager to do that, which would suggest, whisper it, that Forest are now a stable ship once again.

Freedman has been through a couple of difficult spells when neutrals might have expected him to be sacked. However, with the time and patience he has been afforded, he has streamlined the squad and re-structured the wage bill. The Scot inherited a squad with a lot of high-earning players who were there for the pay check and he had the bravery to get shut of those types, which could prove a key part of the club’s long-term development. One feels more comfortable with Nottingham Forest now, when they are not investing so much but have a sense of stability, than when they were throwing money at promotion without much of a plan.

Leeds United have suffered from a lack of investment in recent years. They have just signed Toumani Diagouraga from Brentford, the midfielder available on a cut price with his contract at Griffin Park expiring in the summer. In other circumstances, signing a player with his physicality and composure on the ball might be a coup for the club. However, Leeds already have a squad with a lot of central midfielders and are severely lacking up front, Chris Wood having scored just four goals since September. Steve Evans clearly does not rate Lee Erwin while Mirco Antenucci reportedly wanted to leave not long ago, though his agent has said otherwise.

Leeds have not scored more than 1 goal in a league game this calender year and the possibility of a Forest clean sheet is heightened by the form of Dorus De Vries. Good Dutch goalkeepers are becoming commonplace at the City Ground, Van Breukelen and Segers having provided safe pairs of Hans in the 1980s. De Vries is now another fans favourite. The 35-year-old has saved Forest a lot of points this season and his strong command of his area and impressive distribution has seen him grow into the role.

Nottingham Forest are not yet a great team – talk of a late play-off push is premature – but at the moment they have a healthy habit of taking points in tight games. Their 1-0 win over East Midland rivals Derby in early November boosted morale and they have only lost one game since, with six wins and seven draws in 14 league games. A 1-0 away win.

Championship Predictions
Fixture Prediction
Brighton v Brentford Brentford will go in with no fear – upset at the AMEX. 1-2
Birmingham v Sheff Wed Blues organized but Owls yet to draw blank in 2016. 1-1
Bolton v Rotherham Bolton’s late comeback at Wolves could build momentum. 2-1
Burnley v Hull Both teams strong defensively, a tight game in store. 0-0
Cardiff v MK Dons Dons poor at the back, Cardiff have scored 8 goals in 3. 3-1
Charlton v Bristol City Charlton now united under Jose Riga, home win. 2-1
Fulham v Derby Fulham now in a relegation battle, Derby to end poor run. 1-2
Leeds v Nottm Forest Solid Forest to grind out narrow win. 0-1
Middlesbrough v Blackburn Blackburn can’t buy a goal, Boro just have… 2-0
Preston v Huddersfield Half of Preston’s 8 wins have come by a 1-0 scoreline. 1-0
QPR v Ipswich 1 loss in 7 for Ipswich, QPR are draw-specialists. 1-1
Reading v Wolves Two mediocre teams, both in need of investment. 1-1