MX23RW : Monday, September 24 06:11:59
May 3, 2014 at 12.15pm UK at ​Elland Road
LeedsLeeds United
DerbyDerby County
Smith (50')
Brown (43')
FT(HT: 0-1)
Dawkins (6')
Whitbread (76')

Preview: Leeds United vs. Derby County

Sports Mole previews the final-day Championship clash between Leeds and Derby at Elland Road.

One more hurdle separates Leeds United from the much-anticipated summer break as they host Derby County at Elland Road on the final day of the Championship season this weekend.

It has been a tumultuous campaign for the club, with a protracted takeover bid causing headlines off the field and affecting performances on it as Brian McDermott's side slipped from playoff contenders to midtable mediocrity.

Questions continue to linger over the future of McDermott at Elland Road, with new owner Massimo Cellino expected to make a host of changes to put the club on course for his target of a return to the Premier League within two seasons.

Leeds's form was certainly doing McDermott no favours in his desire to keep the job, but there have been signs of improvement recently with three wins from their last four games.

However, those victories have all come against teams struggling at the wrong end of the table, and Leeds have not beaten any side currently above them in the league since the start of December.

With a more sustained playoff challenge expected next season, that is a record that would need to be improved, and Cellino could well decide that a new manager is the person to do it.

Home form will also need improving next season and McDermott will be keen to give the fans something to smile about on the final day of what has been a tough campaign, although they have lost five of their last seven at Elland Road.

The hosts have no new injury concerns, with Ross McCormack once again expected to lead the line as he closes in on the Championship golden boot.

Derby, meanwhile, have nothing left to fight for in the regular season but will want to keep their momentum going as they enter the playoffs. Having now secured third place in the table, the Rams are assured the kindest playoff draw on paper, although in practice it very rarely works out that way.

Steve McClaren's side are certainly the form team from the playoff candidates, though, with five victories on the trot to finish the season. They will go into the semi-finals as favourites to return to the top flight ahead of Queens Park Rangers, Wigan Athletic and whoever makes up the top six.

Crucially, they are also returning to form away from home having begun the year with just one win in eight matches on the road. They have since won back-to-back away games, albeit against relegation-threatened Blackpool and Doncaster Rovers.

Shaun Barker and long-term absentee Paul Coutts remain sidelined for the visitors, who could also opt to rest PFA Team of the Year inductee Will Hughes.

Recent form



Possible starting lineups

Leeds: Butland; Wootton, Pearce, Lees, Pugh; Austin, Tonge, Murphy, Mowatt; McCormack, Smith

Derby: Grant; Wisdom, Keogh, Buxton, Forsyth; Hendrick, Thorne, Bryson; Bamford, Martin, Russell

Sports Mole says: 1-2

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