Leeds United vs Hull City preview: Tigers aim to halt Leeds juggernaut
Pablo Hernandez celebrates his goal against Huddersfield last week as Leeds earned their sixth consecutive win. Photo by George Wood/Getty Images.

Who is going to stop the top two?

Championship promotion races usually grip and mesmerise football fans from August to May with twists and turns aplenty, yet there is a very real risk that this one could be over by Christmas with both West Bromwich Albion and Leeds United winning their past six games to sprint clear of the rest.

Despite not dropping a point since October, Leeds remain two points shy of the Midlands club at the top, but in their 16th season outside the Premier League they will be more than happy just to stay in the top two.

On that front things are going well: they are seven points clear of Fulham in third with their next opponents, Hull City, closer to the Cottagers in 12th place.

The odds for this Yorkshire derby will of course be in favour of the hosts, but Hull are more than capable of springing a surprise. In the past six matches alone they have beaten Fulham 3-0 and annihilated fellow promotion-chasers Preston 4-0, and were similarly unfancied last December when they came to Elland Road and grabbed a 2-0 win.

A Jarrod Bowen double did the damage back then and their star man has only got better since. His brace in a comeback win over Stoke at the weekend made it 15 goals for the season, putting him joint-top of the scoring charts.

If any player in the division is going to break down the best defence in England, which has allowed just one goal every two games to go past them this season and has conceded only three in their current nine-match unbeaten run, then it is surely Bowen.

His talents have given Hull hope of challenging at the top, going into this clash three points off the play-offs, and he may be the last hope for the rest of division of stopping the considerable Leeds juggernaut and keeping the promotion race alive.

Team news

The one doubt for Leeds is captain Liam Cooper. The centre-back is nearing a return from a hamstring injury but is in a race against time to be fit to face the club where he started his career.

Jamie Shackleton and Adam Forshaw remain out with muscular and hip injuries, as does Tyler Roberts (hamstring), but the Whites will welcome midfield anchor Kalvin Phillips after he served a one-match suspension in last week’s derby win at Huddersfield.

Hull have no fresh injury worries but remain without Josh Magennis (hamstring), Kevin Stewart (foot), Jon Toral (knee) and Norbert Balogh (calf), who are all out long-term.

What the managers have said

Leeds head coach Marcelo Bielsa has been impressed by Hull and expects a challenge, saying: “They’re a team with good attackers. They like to play in attack, you can see this. Every player manages the ball well. They have a clear style and they are a dynamic team.

“(We must) control the game - that is better for us - avoid them having the ball, and avoid them finding us with a lack of organisation when they recover the ball.”

He says he won’t be changing his side’s approach to deal with Bowen, however. “This is a very good player who unbalances the play easily with vigour and he also is the man who passes behind and he scores because he has a good shot,” he said.

“In this case he’s a great attacker but we keep working in the same strategy and keep trying to improve this strategy to defend.”

Tigers chief Grant McCann was honest in his assessment of the task facing his side, but believes an upset is possible.

"I am sure no-one will give us any hope of going there and winning," he said. "But we will go there and play with a smile on our face and freedom and enjoyment and see if we can cause an upset.

"It is just a game where we can go and see if we can upset the odds. They have won six in a row and have real confidence at the minute and we will just see what we can do."

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