Stoke City vs Leeds United preview: League leaders go to bottom side
Jack Butland looks dejected during the Sky Bet Championship match between Preston North End and Stoke City at Deepdale. Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images.

Stoke City vs Leeds United preview: League leaders go to bottom side

It's top against bottom as early leaders Leeds head to Staffordshire to face basement dwellers Stoke.

Stephen Ibbetson

Both Leeds United and Stoke City began the season with reasons to be optimistic and cause also for concern.

Leeds came so close to promotion last season, but having made such strides only to fall at the final hurdle, would star boss Marcelo Bielsa reach the heights again this year with a squad containing some obvious flaws, not least up front?

Stoke had a year to forget and swapped managers as Nathan Jones was handed the role. They lacked pace and goal threat for much of the year, but would some impressive recruitment over the close season put them in promotion contention?

Just four games into the Championship season, things are already looking clearer.

The Whites sit top of the tree already, with three wins and a draw. Fans will have wondered where the goals were going to come from after the sale of Kemar Roofe but their two main strikers have stepped up.

Patrick Bamford was at the double in last weekend’s 2-0 win at Wigan Athletic and Arsenal loanee Eddie Nketiah came off the bench to score a late winner at Elland Road on Wednesday night against Brentford.

Meanwhile, the Potters are rooted to the foot of the table with just the solitary point to their name. They have scored in every game but have looked far more vulnerable at the back than at any point since Jones’ arrival, reaching double figures in the ‘goals against’ tally already.

In the deserved midweek humbling at Preston North End, goalkeeper Jack Butland made big errors for two of the goals. Things are falling apart, and fast.

Team news

Barry Douglas missed United’s midweek win and is a doubt for the trip to Stoke, as is fellow full-back Stuart Dallas after he was substituted late on in that game through injury.

Leeds look light at the back with captain Liam Cooper also nursing a knock while Luke Ayling is still recovering from ankle injury over the summer. Tyler Roberts is also out with a long-term knee issue.

Forward Nick Powell hasn’t featured since the opening day for Stoke but is back in contention. Their only injury absentees are defenders Ryan Shawcross and Bruno Martins Indi.

What the managers have said

Jones says that his Stoke players need to find a way to get themselves out of the sticky patch they are currently in.

“You are never confident for 100 per cent of your career and you have to get that back,” he said.

“You can make stuff happen in games and then suddenly it clicks. You do something good, you earn that win, then the confidence comes. Then you go back that up, go on a run and you think ‘what was ever wrong?’

“But there’s no magic pill for that, no God-given right you are going to come through it. You have to get yourself through it.”

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Leeds boss Bielsa says it is too early to compare their strong start to last season, and expects a challenge from the Potters despite their league position.

“It was a very good performance at the start of last season,” he said. “But it’s true at the same time that to compare last season with this year, it’s too early."

On Stoke, he added: “The distance between the teams in the table is rare, when you play it’s too close.

“For us it will be much harder. For them they have very good quality players.”