For Leeds United fans the season is all but over and mid-table mediocrity seems to be beckoning. For Fulham fans it couldn’t be any different – the Cottagers firmly ensconced in the play-off picture.
Leeds United started the season on a fiery streak of form and clean sheets, putting teams aside with ease and briefly topping the table. Two drops in form, with a brief respite, has seen the Whites drop to 12th – a place rescued by Friday’s 2-1 victory over Bolton Wanderers at Elland Road.
Fulham meanwhile have been putting together a very decent run of late and find themselves 3rd in the table. The 72 points that they have puts them 10 points clear of 7th and firmly establishes them as a play-off side for this season’s competition. Additionally, in their final seven games they’ll be hunting down Cardiff who sit one place and seven points above them.
A win, for differing reasons, is something that both sides would appreciate. For Fulham it would be three points towards a deeper play-off security. For Leeds it would be three points clambered towards an increasingly futile play-off climb that is surely beyond them.
Five things to look for in Tuesday night’s Fulham vs Leeds United clash
1. Impressive teen Ryan Sessegnon: It is totally acceptable and forgivable if you look at Ryan Sessegnon and allow your mouth to drop at his skillful play. It is even more acceptable to sit there goggle-eyed and mouth agape and in a catatonic state in the realisation that he is only 17. He’s a youngster on fire this season – scoring 14 goals and providing five assists in an ever-present 39 games for Fulham. A right-back by trade, Sessegnon has been pushed further upfield, the figures that he is showing demonstrate this.
2. Leeds to concede a goal: It is almost a given nowadays that Leeds United will concede, often due to some defensive laxity. Leeds have gone from a side who were miserly at the back in the early part of this Championship campaign to a side who display great benevolence and charity to opposition forwards. They are also a side who are on their third starting keeper with former #1 Felix Wiedwald and back-up Andy Lonergan giving way to highly regarded youngster Bailey Peacock-Farrell.
3. Tom Cairney to have a blinder: Former Leeds United youth player Cairney always seems to do well against the club that released him as a youngster. In his last three games for Fulham against the Whites, Cairney has scored a goal in each, including an injury time equaliser last time out in March last year. Add two game for Blackburn against Leeds United, before he moved to the Cottagers, and Cairney has a further goal and two assists. Expect this run of production to be repeated come this evening.
4. Pablo Hernandez to earn his megs bonus: He still hasn’t signed a new deal for the Whites, something that worries some fans, but Pablo Hernandez continues to display that creativity that has fans almost willing the pen into his hand. The diminutive Spanish playmaker has proven to be one of Leeds’ most effective players this season, scoring six times and providing eight assists. He has a range of passing and acuity of vision that sets him apart from most of the Leeds United players. He’s also tricky on the ball, one locus that drives the Whites forward and gets them in good positions. On top of that, look for him to earn his megs bonus and turn a Fulham player inside-out.
5. A Fulham win and three points: It’s hard to say as a Leeds United fan myself, but I cannot see the Whites getting anything out of this game. Fulham play with a sense of pomp and an imperious nature that often overwhelms opponents. Leeds often start well, but once a side gets the upper hand they do shy off and are easily attacked. I am not saying this will be a footballing equivalent of Rorke’s Drift, but I still can’t see the Whites profiting from this evening’s game at Craven Cottage.