|Ipswich Town 1 v 0 Leeds United|
Saturday, 13th January 2018 Kick-off 15:00
A Big Game as Town Look to Halt Slide
Friday, 12th Jan 2018 17:44
Boss Mick McCarthy admits Saturday’s home match against Leeds United is a big game as the Blues look to get back to winning ways after five games without a victory.
Town were beaten 1-0 by Sheffield United in the FA Cup last weekend, their third successive defeat after Championship losses at home to Derby and at Fulham.
The Blues have dropped to 12th, now seven points behind tomorrow’s opponents, who occupy the final play-off place and the season is in danger of drifting towards another mid-table finish.
“We need one win [to spark things back to life],” admitted McCarthy, a boyhood Whites fan. “Tomorrow’s a big game for us, they’re bringing a big crowd, it should be a good game because they’re going well, they’ve just got in the top six.
“They’re bringing a big, big crowd, it’ll be a good atmosphere tomorrow and we need to win. We’ve had three defeats on the bounce, we need to get back to winning ways.”
Leeds, who have been given a larger than usual allocation of 3,500 tickets all across the Cobbold Stand, are without a win in their last three in all competitions - they were beaten 2-1 by League Two Newport County in the FA Cup last week - but prior to that won four in a row at the end of a six-game unbeaten streak.
“They’ve been in good form,” McCarthy continued. “I think they've got a good team, but there was nothing in the game there [in September when Town lost 3-2].
“The reality is that I thought we were the better side. We took the game to them in the second half and it was mistake from a corner, we let our guard down.
“But we were really pushing. I’d settle for playing as well as we did up there, but with a better result.”
Town’s injury woes continue - keeper Bartosz Bialkowski misses Saturday’s game with what's understood to be a minor calf problem - but the Blues boss says his squad is capable of victories even without their missing players.
“I’m confident we’ll get wins with them, of course, because pretty much it’s the same team that was earlier in the season,” he insisted.
“We’ve not had Emyr Huws for too many games or Tom Adeyemi or Teddy Bishop. But, wow, wouldn’t it be nice to have those boys fit because they’re good players.”
McCarthy has confirmed that Dean Gerken will make his first league start of the season in goal having played in the Carabao Cup ties at Luton and Crystal Palace. The 32-year-old’s most recent Championship match was the 1-0 defeat to Rotherham in April last year.
With Jordan Spence serving the second game of his two-match ban, Dominic Iorfa will continue at right-back with Myles Kenlock set to be on the left.
Skipper Luke Chambers will be joined at the centre of the defence by Jonas Knudsen with Adam Webster injured and Colorado Rapids target Tommy Smith having been ill.
McCarthy seems likely to return to his 4-2-3-1 system with Leeds usually utilising a similar formation.
That will probably see Cole Skuse joined by Callum Connolly, although Luke Hyam impressed his manager having started his first game in 19 months against Sheffield United last week.
Behind lone out and out striker Joe Garner McCarthy is likely to play Bersant Celina and David McGoldrick either side of Martyn Waghorn.
Striker Aaron Drinan will be hoping to make his Blues debut from the bench, while Chris Smith, who has been recalled from his loan spell at Chelmsford, will also be among the subs.
Leeds will be without midfielder Samuel Saiz, who is banned for six matches for spitting at an opponent during last week’s FA Cup defeat.
Full-back Luke Ayling has been ruled out for the rest of the season after undergoing ankle surgery, while Ronaldo Vieira (knee), Caleb Ekuban (broken foot), Matthew Pennington (illness) and Cameron Borthwick-Jackson (ankle) are also sidelined.
Winger Stuart Dallas could be in line to return but new signing Laurens De Bock, who joined from Club Brugge earlier this week, is yet to train with his new team-mates and won’t be involved having travelled back to Belgium.
Leeds head coach Thomas Christiansen wants his side to put last week’s embarrassing FA Cup exit behind them: “We know how Ipswich will play, it is always important to win a game, especially after going out of the FA Cup how we did.
“It is extra motivation for the players to come out and show their worth in this game.
"We are expecting a tough match, like the game we had at home, but we have to go there with our ideas and try to take a good result.”
Historically, Leeds have the superior record in the fixture, winning 32 (31 in the league) clashes between the teams. Town have been victorious on 27 (22) occasions and 21 (18) games have ended in draws.
In September at Elland Road, McGoldrick and Garner were on target but couldn’t prevent the Blues from falling to a 3-2 defeat.
The Whites went in front via Pierre-Michel Lasogga on 13, McGoldrick equalised on the half hour, before Kalvin Phillips’s goal two minutes later gave the home side a 2-1 half-time lead.
Town improved after the break but went 3-1 behind when Bialkowski dropped a corner over the line in the 67th minute. Garner pulled one back four minutes later but the Blues couldn’t find an equaliser.
Last time at Portman Road, in February last year, Freddie Sears netted his first goal for four months as the Blues and Leeds drew 1-1.
The striker turned home Grant Ward’s right-wing cross in the ninth minute but Dallas equalised against the run of play on 42 with Town having much the better of the chances in the second half, McGoldrick going closest to winning it when he hit the bar.
Blues assistant manager Terry Connor was with his hometown club between 1979 and 1983, scoring 22 goals in 108 games.
Town fitness coach Andy Liddell is also from Leeds and is another boyhood supporter of the club, his father Gary having played for the Elland Road outfit.
The Blues support will be augmented by 110 Fortuna Düsseldorf fans making their annual pilgrimage to Portman Road. Joining them for the trip is former Fortuna defender Günter Kuczinski, who made 121 Bundesliga appearances for the club between 1980 and 1986.
The Fortuna fans will be in Section 6 during the match and Bears Pool and Snooker beforehand, while a number of them will be in the FanZone and appearing on BBC Radio Suffolk’s Life’s a Pitch.
Boots2Africa will be holding one of their donation events prior to the match in the FanZone.
Saturday’s referee is Robert Jones from Merseyside, who has shown 71 yellow cards and five red in 26 games so far this season.
Jones, who has only refereed nine previous games at Championship level, was the man in the middle for December’s 2-0 defeat at Middlesbrough, his only Blues match to date, showing two yellow cards to home players before being replaced by fourth official Geoff Eltringham at half-time.
Probable squad: Gerken, M Crowe, Iorfa, Kenlock, Chambers (c), Knudsen, C Smith, Skuse, Connolly, Hyam, Bru, McDonnell, Celina, McGoldrick, Waghorn, Garner, Sears, Drinan.
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