AFTER collecting just three points from their five league games since the last international break tomorrow’s home game against Watford has suddenly become a key match for Leeds United, writes Tony Harber.
Such is the competitive nature of the Npower Championship that although Leeds have only lost twice in their last 11 games in all competitions they have slipped down to 15th place following the narrow 1-0 defeat to Burnley on Tuesday night.
In itself the loss was not too damaging, but coming after three draws and a defeat in the previous four league matches it has raised doubts about whether Neil Warnock’s side can mount a promotion challenge without further investment.
United are now right in the middle, 10 points off the top and 10 off the bottom and with tough games round the corner against leaders Crystal Palace, Leicester and Huddersfield Town, they appear to be in must-win territory when entertaining a Watford side with the same 20 points total, but one place below them in the table courtesy of an inferior goal difference.
Watford arrive on the back of a morale-boosting 2-1 win over promotion chasers Leicester last Saturday and a 0-0 home draw with fast improving Millwall on Tuesday night when only the thickness of the post denied them another victory.
With three wins on their travels already this season Gianfranco Zola’s men are clearly no pushovers and United will have to rediscover their best form to get the win they need.
Leeds boss Warnock is likely to make changes to his side after being unhappy with the manner of the defeat at Turf Moor.
After the game he said: “I don’t think I’ve been as disappointed as this all season. I don’t know how we haven’t won, I feel like I’ve been mugged.
“You cannot miss chances like we have. We had a few words at half-time and we were better in the second half, we dominated. But we go back home, tail between the legs and we have lost another game.”
Midfielders Paul Green and Davis Norris are pushing for starts after being on the bench in recent matches while Luke Varney could come back in after being handed a substitute’s role at Burnley.
Defender Tom Lees is definitely out, though, after suffering a freak eye injury in the 2-2 draw at Brighton last Friday. The England under 21 international saw an eye specialist on Monday and missed the trip to Burnley.
Warnock explained: “It’s looking like we’ll be without Tom for a couple of weeks at least. He caught a finger in the eye and suffered with his vision and it will take a couple of weeks for it to heal properly.”
Strikers Ross McCormack and Davide Somma, meanwhile, are on the comeback trail after injuries with Warnock saying that both would be stepping up their training next week.
Last season’s top scorer McCormack has not played since injuring his ankle at Cardiff in September while Somma has been out of action for 15 months after damaging anterior cruciate ligaments in his knee.