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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Big Match Preview

League One
Leeds United vs. Millwall
Monday March 22, 19:45, Elland Road

There's little love lost between those two teams at the best of times. However, when the two meet in West Yorkshire next Monday evening there'll be precious points in the League One promotion race at stake.

Kenny Jackett's visitors are the form side in the division at the moment - taking 19 points from their last eight games. That's in contrast to a Leeds team who've taken 10 points from the same number of matches.

Which means, although the Lions go into the game six points behind United, they'll feel confident of closing that gap on the automatic promotion places.

Millwall lost out to Scunthorpe in the play-off final last May and, with the London outfit sitting 5th before the weekend's games, are on course to at least match their top six finish of last term.

The experienced Jackett, who also lost in the play-off final with Swansea four years ago, will be determined to try and avoid the end of season lottery however, and claim the second promotion position behind runaway leaders Norwich.

Their success this season has once again been built on a solid backline - conceding fewer than one a game - and a worth ethic and organisation that are the hallmark of Jackett's sides.

Earlier on in the season, they became the first side to inflict defeat upon Leeds - who at that stage were looking imperious at the top of League One.

It is their record at the New Den - 13 wins and just one defeat from 18 played - which has seen them enter the promotion mix. In Neil Harris and Steve Morison too, the Lions have a strikeforce which have bagged 33 goals between them this season.

However, a trip to Elland Road is never easy. Although Leeds have stuttered over the past couple of months, they remain on course for promotion to the Championship - sitting five points clear of nearest challengers Charlton.

Leeds boss Simon Grayson is hoping to steer his club into the Championship

Simon Grayson's side also boast the best defensive record in the division - just 30 goals leaked in their 36 matches - and United have also lost the fewest number of times.

The former Blackpool boss will also be hoping that the return to the side of top scorer Jermaine Beckford will boost his side's promotion chances as the season enters its final furlong.

Beckford, who is out of contract at the end of the season, has found the back of the net 21 times in league action - 27 in total - this season. Although he is ably assisted by the likes of Lucciano Becchio and Robert Snodgrass, he remains key to Leeds's promotion hopes.

Their home record is also impressive - only Walsall have left Elland Road with all three points this season - their only defeat in their last 29 league home matches.

The Yorkshire club also have a score to settle with their opponents. Not only did the Lions beat them earlier in the season, but it was Jackett's men who beat Leeds in the play-offs last season to end their promotion dream.

A fiery and passionate clash can be expected both on and off the pitch therefore as two of the best and most organised sides in the division come face to face.

It's unlikely to be a high scoring affair, and it's difficult to know who needs the win more. Leeds are due a big performance and result though, and they have a little more quality than their opponents to just edge a tight game.

Nobes' Prediction: Leeds United 2 Millwall 1

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