In arguably the toughest game that Reading will have in the rest of this league season, the Royals head up to Elland Road to take on Leeds United. After a strong campaign so far, Marcelo Bielsa’s side still have automatic promotion under their control, but recent poor form suggests that might well go down to the wire.
To preview Saturday’s match, we spoke to Leeds United fan, football writer, podcaster and radio host Jon Mackenzie. You can find his work on the All Stats Aren’t We account on Twitter, a Leeds United fan show on Love Sport Radio, and the Football Today podcast.
How would you sum up your season so far?
It’s hard to answer this without sounding bitter. The underlying statistics show that Leeds control games but seldom show the sort of ruthlessness necessary to finish off oppositions. This gives the fan the bizarre feeling that they both deserve to win games but also don’t deserve to win games and has made for a heady atmosphere at Elland Road all season. If push comes to shove, I would say we’re the best team in the league. But that is a loaded statement depending on what you deem to be a “good” championship team.
Leeds seem to have gone off the boil recently, winning just twice in 2020 - what’s caused that?
I would say variance because I think statistics are probably the best indicators of a team’s performance. If Patrick Bamford were finishing the way he was when we won seven on the bounce, we wouldn’t have shown up as slumping in the first place. That said, the 3-3 draw with Cardiff having been 3-0 up didn’t help morale. And we certainly missed Kalvin Phillips for his three-match ban.
Reading fans have been annoyed by the £39 tickets - what’s the Leeds view on away-end pricing at Elland Road?
I don’t know what the “Leeds” view is and I don’t speak for anyone bar myself, but I think it’s unforgivable to charge away fans that sort of price.
If Reading are to come away with a result on Saturday, what do they need to do?
Sit deeper and try and hit Leeds on the break. This has tended to be the model that has hurt them this season. Of course, even if you do that, Leeds will likely create more chances than you. You just have to hope that Bamford is still dodgy in front of goal.
What do you make of Reading at the moment in general?
I’ll be honest, I haven’t been keeping up with them as much recently. I’m a big fan of a lot of things about Reading, particularly their midfield, and I think they could be a proposition for promotion next season (although perhaps with a different manager at the helm).
How do you see the rest of the season panning out for Leeds?
Much the same as it has gone so far: dominating games but dropping points as a result of lacking that efficient edge that you need to get promoted. We’ll be there and thereabouts at the end of the season but I won’t be drawn on promotion chat at this point.
How do you see the game going, and what will the score be?
I expect Leeds to control long stretches of the game. The key will be controlling John Swift - which we largely did at the Madejski - and Ovie Ejaria - which we largely didn’t do at the Madejski. Leeds will win by a one-goal margin.