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Leeds United has gone through a relatively rough stretch during the past decade and a half, coming down from the Premier League to the Championship in 2004 and then down to League One in 2007 before coming back up to the Championship in 2010. However, after a recent overhaul in the team's roster and management, there's reason to believe that the club might soon be promoted back to the Premier League if a solid play-off performance is given this year, and if the BetVictor betting odds which have Leeds at 10/1 to get promotion are anything to go by, things are definitely looking up!
The team currently ranks 7th in the Championship standings, but they're tied with 4th for the number of wins, so they could theoretically break into the play-offs within the next 3-4 games. That's something for Leeds fans to get excited about because this is already shaping up to be the best season the squad has had in the Championship since 2005.
With said, here are 5 reasons why Leeds could make a strong play-off run this season:
1. Elland Road and the Fans
Leeds United has always had an incredibly loyal, dedicated, and passionate fan base, but the morale and attendance has been boosted significantly this season thanks to several key changes and better-than-usual performance. The stadium sees an overpowering attendance of almost 28,000 each match, and last year alone nearly 640,000 people attended Championship League games at the venue. Last season also saw the first stadium's sell out match in 6 years when Leeds United faced Newcastle United.
The recent spurt in team spirit increases the intensity of a place that's already known to be one of the rowdiest stadiums in the history of English football. In fact, the club's fan loyalty is part of the reason why BetVictor betting odds have been tipping heavily in favour Leeds United recently. Of course, one would assume that later this season we could see another sell out game, which would put a crowd of more than 38,000 roaring down on the opposing team. That's something to be cheerful about if you're a Leeds United fan because the club will be facing Wolves, Bristol City, and Cardiff City at home within the span of about a month and a half. Securing those three wins alone would shift a massive amount of momentum in Leeds favour going towards the play-offs.
2. Thomas Christiansen's Coaching
When Leeds United officially appointed Thomas Christiansen as the head coach, many were initially surprised and upset about the decision. After all, most fans hadn't heard much about the 44-year old's reputation, so replacing Gary Monk seemed like a bit of a gamble. Well, it turns out that in this case management made the right decision because Christiansen proceeded to lead the team to the best season opening in club history. They went undefeated for 8 games and prevented the opposition from scoring a goal for an impressive 600 consecutive minutes. Such stats have gained the new coach a reputation for breaking records, so it makes sense that many analysts are expecting a continued high level of play from Leeds United, and potentially a resulting play-off run.
The jaw dropping start plays testament not only to the new players brought on board during the summer but also to Christiansen's defence-based yet dominant approach. In an interview for The Independent, he stressed the importance of maintaining control of the ball while making organised and well-defended offensive movements.
3. Recently Strengthened Squad
With Thomas Christiansen taking control of the club this year and several other management changes being implemented, a range of new talent was subsequently recruited. Of all the players signed to the club this past season, perhaps none will have more of an impact down the stretch than the aggressive midfielder Samu Saiz, who was acquired from SD Huesca for a £3million contract. The big investment comes after Samu put on a stellar performance last year and subsequently caught the eye of hungry Leeds United recruiters.
Although Suiz has been the main headline maker in terms of newly recruited players, there are a few others who have managed to impress as well, including Pierre-Michel Lasogga, who scored two goals in his debut match against Burton that saw Leeds win in dominating fashion (5-0). Then there's Gjanni Alioski, an action-packed player who is quickly becoming a fan favourite due to his fast-paced antics and frequent involvement in exciting scenes.
4. It All Started With Changes in Ownership and Management
The success we're seeing now is actually a product of changes in ownership that happened almost exactly one year ago when Andrea Radrizzani became one of the club's co-owners with the goal of bringing maturity and better decision-making to the table. This season he arranged a deal to take over of the club fully, acquiring the rest of the ownership rights from former owner Massimo Cellino. Shortly after that, Radrizzani bought back Elland Road, which was a move that riled up Leeds United Fans.
In seeing the excitement that change could bring with the stadium being the club's property once again, it was then that Andrea decided to appoint Christiansen. However, a widely overlooked yet pivotal contribution to the club this season has come from the new sporting director Victor Orta, who was responsible for overseeing the signing and acquisition of all the great new talent that has helped the club secure a potential spot in this year's Championship play-offs.
5. Combining New Coaching with New Players for a Fully Revitalised Club
Of course, a great coach with a poor team can only do so much, so it was only right for management to opt for a complete overhaul of the roster to complement Christiansen's coaching abilities. After all, it made sense to give the newly appointed coach fresh talent to work with as opposed to burdening him with the task of coming in and repairing what was quite obviously a broken team at the time. Combining leadership adjustments with the recruitment of new talent proved to be a successful formula, and it explains why the club looks like a different team this season – because it literally is in many ways.
February Through Early March Will Be the Toughest Part of the Season
With the next match being against the lowly ranked (20th) Hull City on January 30th, it seems the next real challenge and great show will come on February 2nd when Leeds battles 3rd ranked Cardiff City. Then, on February 10th the club will face off against their closest rival – the 6th ranked Sheffield United, followed by a match against the 5th ranked Bristol City on the 18th and then the 2nd ranked Derby County on the 21st.
The fact that Leeds will be facing 3 higher ranking teams within the span of 11 days will make for plenty of action, but losing some of those games would leave a huge dent in the club's position going into the play-offs. Plus, to make matters worse, a couple weeks later (March 7th) the club will face the first 1st place Wolves – a squad that currently has a dominant 4-win lead over 2nd and 3rd place Derby County and Cardiff City.
The good news is, if Leeds United does well during this stretch then the rest of the season should be a cakewalk in comparison, so fans and analysts should keep a close eye on the club's performance during the next 8 weeks.