By Mike Courtney
So the International Break has come and gone and it's back to the bread and butter stuff of the League with an away trip to our Yorkshire rivals Rotherham just 30 miles over the road. Gone are the days when The International Break would leave us with a nervous wait to see if any of our returning stars were injured or tired after their excurions with their countries. What the break did do was give Darko time to get to know his squad and set to work on implementing his style on the players. Two draws out of three games was not a start to set the world on fire, especially after Redders great run of form, but the signs were there against The Wendies that Darko has inherited a squad that, whisper it, is capable of mounting a challenge.We appear more solid at the back, our midfield is passing the ball a bit better and we have strikers that can cause teams problems. The squad is strong and there is serious competition for most places, especially in midfield and up front. We could still do with a centre back or two because if anything happens to Bellusci or Pearce we could be in difficulty.
What can you say about Bellusci? He is fast becoming a cult hero with his no nonsense defending and his ability on the ball not to mention his eye for a goal. He has been a revelation over the past month or so after an innocuous start when he saw red against Watford. He along with Silvestri has been our best player of late and we will need them and Pearce to be at their best if we are to get anything from the trip tomorrow night.
Darko has some big decisions to make with his selection for the match. He has a 3 way choice at left back to consider with Bererdi, Cooper and Warnock all vying for the one spot. Berardi seems to be in pole position and could get the nod although the experience of Warnock should give the manager a headache or two before he makes his mind up. It is midfield though that the real battle for places is hotting up. Fans have been screaming from the rafters for Adryan to be unleashed and after a few good performances in the development squad he is in contention. The problem is who will he replace? Mowatt, Cook, Austin, Bianchi and Sloth have been the choices in midfield up to now and add Murphy and Dawson, who has also impressed in the reserves over the last fortnight and you have 8 vying for four places. Personally I would go with Bianchi, Cook, Mowatt and Austin, but it's great that the manager has loads of options and whatever 4 he goes with have the ability to get the job done.
Up front Doukara and Antenucci have been the prefered choice but with goals hard to come by under Darko, only 2 in three games, the manager might look to freshen things up a bit with both Sharp and Morison chomping at the bit to get some action. I can't see the gaffer changing things too much as both Doukara and Antenucci have been playing well but again it's great to have those options if things aren't going according to plan.
Rotherham have been doing well since their promotion and a win by more than 2 goals will see them leapfrog Leeds in the table. They have taken 4 points from thier last 2 games against Blackburn and Norwich and I'm sure Steve Evans will have them fired up for a crack at their illustrious Yorkshire neighbours in front of a full house and the Sky cameras. Thankfully our ex striker Luciano Becchio is out injured, as former Leeds players have a habit of coming back to haunt us and he would have been a shoe-in to score a late winner if he was fit to play. They still have a good hard working squad and our midfield quartet will have to be on their toes if we are to dominate possession and create chances for our strike force.
For Leeds 3 points will put us within touching distance of the playoff spots and it is these games that we have to start winning if we want to keep tabs on the top teams. This League as always is tight with just 6 points seperating the top 14 teams as it stands, so a run of a couple of wins can have you in a decent position, wheras a couple of defeats can see you become detached at the bottom and struggling to stay in the division.
It's going to be a long hard season, there is no one running away with things at present. Geting our first win under Milanic will take the pressure off him and I think we can achieve that tomorrow night with a hard fought 2-1 victory to see us move into the top ten before the other temas play over the weekend.
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