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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Big Match Preview - Leeds vs. Burnley

Leeds United vs. Burnley
Saturday April 30, 12:45, Elland Road

It's do or die in the race for the Championship play offs this weekend as Leeds United and Burnley go head to head knowing that their chances of a top six finish hang in the balance.

With Nottingham Forest, who currently occupy the final play off spot, facing a Scunthorpe side as good as down, they know that anything less than three points could end their challenge come 5pm.

For United, it's a situation they would have found hard to envisage when, at the beginning of the month, they beat Forest 4-1 to move four points ahead of the East Midlands side.

However, since then Simon Grayson's men have lost three and drawn two of their next five games - a run which has seen them slide down to 9th - to lie three points adrift of the last play off berth.

Having come so close to throwing away automatic promotion from League One last term, it appears that Leeds have once again choked as the season has reached its climax.

However, Grayson will know that victory against Burnley will definitely give his side a chance of reaching the play offs going into their last game of the season at table topping QPR.

He will also draw strength from Leeds's imposing home record - with the Yorkshire side having lost just four times at Elland Road where they remain unbeaten since October.

They will hope that 20-goal striker Luciano Becchio will have returned from an ankle injury in time to play in a Leeds side that are the second highest scorers in the division.

Eddie Howe's Burnley have found form - but has it come too late for the top six?

In their way stand a Burnley team who are still able to bounce back immediately to the Premier League following relegation from the top flight after just a season last May.

The Clarets have been involved in and around the play off race all term, but made the decision to axe boss Brian Laws at the turn of the year and appointed the highly rated Eddie Howe from Bournemouth as his replacement.

The new man engineered an immediate turn around in fortunes, overseeing a run of one defeat in nine to guide the Lancashire outfit onto the fringes of the play offs with games in hand.

However, they then embarked on a seven match winless streak which has only recently been reversed in recent weeks with Burnley claiming ten points from their last four fixtures.

That's left them in 8th, just a couple of points behind Forest. Howe will be well aware that his side will have to do it the hard way though, with Saturday's game at Elland Road being followed by promotion-chasing Cardiff on the final day.

Key men for the Clarets include midfielder Chris Eagles and homegrown striker Jay Rodriguez - both with 14 goals to their name. The experienced Chris Iwelumo is also a threat in the air with his height and physicality.

With both sides knowing that only a win will do, this could well be an open and exciting game with plenty of goals. That's often the way with Leeds anyway, who will see this as their last chance saloon.

However, Burnley need the points too - and will look to avenge their 3-2 home loss to Leeds at Turf Moor earlier in the campaign. In the end though, it may well end in the draw which will do neither of them any good.

Nobes' Prediction: Leeds United 2 Burnley 2

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