Leeds can put the skids under Brighton
High-flying Seagulls face tough test
Sky Bet Championship
Sky Sports 1, 5.30pm Saturday
Leeds have had a tough time against the best teams in the Sky Bet Championship, losing four matches out of four against the top three, but they can end that sequence by beating second-placed Brighton in front of the Sky cameras.
Most visiting teams have struggled at Elland Road this season. Leeds have won 12 of their last 16 home league games and three points are a must for them against Brighton if they are to retain slim hopes of a top-two finish.
Victory over the Seagulls would cut the gap to the top two to eight points with eight games remaining but Leeds are probably more concerned about defending the top-six status they have held since November.
Seventh-placed Fulham have gone eight games unbeaten and are putting significant pressure on the teams occupying the playoff spots.
Leeds do not look as vulnerable as Reading or Sheffield Wednesday, but any sudden loss of focus could prove costly.
As a young, inexperienced side Leeds might seem prime candidates to buckle under the intensity of the promotion run-in.
But their manager Garry Monk has been a steadying influence and they have a solid defensive spine – veteran ex-England goalkeeper Robert Green and impressive centre-backs Pontus Jansson and Kyle Bartley – who have helped them collect points when not playing at their best.
The knack of winning games without playing well has been a trait Brighton have demonstrated on numerous occasions.
However, Brighton's settled back four has been destabilised by a recent injuries to centre-back Richard Duffy and left-back Sebastien Pocognoli and the cracks were starting to show earlier this month as the Seagulls lost back-to-back matches at home to Newcastle (2-1) and away to Nottingham Forest (3-0).
Brighton responded with wins at basement boys Rotherham (2-0) and at home to struggling Derby (3-0) – Rams' manager Steve McClaren was sacked just two days later.
However, Leeds away is a much more difficult test and one which they are by no means certain to pass.
1pt 23-10 bet365, Sky Bet
Kalvin Phillips and Luke Ayling are suspended and Charlie Taylor (Achilles) could come back into the side.
Bruno has shaken off a minor groin strain but Shane Duffy (ankle), Sebastien Pocognoli (groin) and Gaeten Bong (knee) are out.
Leeds have won 12 of their last 16 home league fixtures.