Leeds United stunned the nation on Monday night as the Championship leaders went toe to toe with Premier League Arsenal in front of the BBC cameras.
Whilst the match ended in defeat for the second-tier outfit, the footballing world was full of praise for Leeds and Marcelo Bielsa with the Whites proving they’re ready to make the step up to the topflight.
As for Sheffield Wednesday, their performance against another Premier League side in Brighton and Hove Albion went somewhat under the radar over the FA Cup weekend.
The Owls managed a narrow 1-0 victory at the Amex and now face an all Championship clash against Queens Park Rangers in the fourth round.
However, thoughts of the FA Cup will be forced way into the background come Saturday 3pm as two historic rivals face off for the second time this season.
Earlier in the campaign neither side were able to break the deadlock in South Yorkshire with both teams taking a point in a 0-0 draw.
Excluding their FA Cup upset against Brighton, Wednesday are on a run of three straight losses in the league, meaning Garry Monk’s side have dropped out of the play-offs and now sit eighth in the table, two points behind sixth place Swansea City.
All three losses came in the seven-day period between Boxing Day and New Year’s Day, a post-Christmas hangover from their previous six game unbeaten spell.
With results falling short of Monks expectations the busy winter period may be to blame for some tired legs in the Wednesday squad. However, the Owls gaffer opted to play a full strength squad in the cup competition, which could come back to haunt him at Elland Road on Saturday.
Leeds have also faltered over the recent weeks yet have emerged from a run of just one win in their past five outings to somehow sit top of the Championship table.
Their last league outing saw them draw 1-1 with nearest promotion rivals West Bromwich Albion away from home, with the two sides now sitting nine points clear of Brentford in third place.
Previously, Leeds had procured all three points in a Championship classic at St Andrews, ending on the winning side of an epic 4-5 against Birmingham City.
With Leeds coming out of their Christmas blip on top the table, fans hoping 2020 will bring more blessings in the form of Premier League football come September.
What to Expect
If the reverse fixture is anything to go by a close game is on the cards. When the sides met back in October, they boasted the best two defences in the division.
Three months later and despite conceding eleven in their last five league outings, Leeds still remain one of the leagues most secure at the back, with only Brentford recording less goals conceded.
As for Wednesday, their defence remains solid; twenty-six goals conceded all season ranks as the fourth best defensive record in the league.
One key area the teams differ is their passing games. Whilst Leeds record around 439 short passes per game, Sheffield Wednesday make just 290. Furthermore, Wednesday make over 70 long passes per game in contrast to Leeds who play just above 60 over the course of ninety minutes.
With Sheffield opting to play the long ball, Leeds may face an onslaught from physical strikers Steven Fletcher and Jordan Rhodes. The two strikers are capable in the air and may provided an outball for Wednesday when under pressure from a possession dictating Leeds side.
The Owls must look to hurt Leeds on set-pieces. Over, 50% of Leeds’ goals conceded this season have come from set-pieces, which favours a Wednesday side who have scored ten goals in this manner all season, the joint fourth most of all sides.
Leeds striker Patrick Bamford has evolved significantly as a footballer under Marcelo Bielsa and is more often than not the villain of the opposition when Leeds play. Antagonising defences, and fans, Bamford has managed ten goals this season, yet it is his all-round build-up play that has earned him a spot as a fan favourite at Elland Road.
To combat Bamford, former Leeds man turned Sheffield Wednesday skipper Tom Lees must be on top form. The defender enjoyed a successful December finding the net twice and keeping two clean sheets in the heart of the Wednesday defence; subsequently earning himself a nomination for PFA Player of the Month.
If Leeds want to keep Wednesday quiet, it’s another player who turned out at Elland Road they must keep under control. Barry Bannan is often in the conversation for most creative players in the division and with seven assists this season it’s easy to see why.
Bannan is often deployed in a box to box midfielder role yet it's his eye in the final third and left foot on set pieces which will be a worry for Leeds on Saturday.
In the absence of Spanish playmaker Pablo Hernandez, Leeds have looked to Jack Harrison to apply the creative spark in their attack. The on loan Manchester City winger has five goals and six assists this campaign as Leeds fans hope the move will be made permanent come summer.