Ever since Allan Saint-Maximin scores what we’d hoped would be the winner against Watford, it’s been an incredibly frustrating time for us fans.
We went into our shells in the final half an hour, showing our worrying lack of confidence, quality or leadership as Joao Pedro’s 88th minute header gave Watford a point that denied us three we so desperately needed.
Since then, we’ve seen our attempts to sign Sven Botman, Diego Carlos and Jesse Lingard drag on to the point we have no new signings in for Saturday’s crucial trip to Leeds.
The hosts have had a poor season, not looking nearly the same relentless attacking threat that made them so good to watch last season, however they arrive on the back of a very impressive 3-2 win at West Ham.
They still have several injury issues and are definitely a side that can be got at, mind. Especially from set pieces!
Some feel like our season may start when the transfer window shuts and new players are in the building ahead of home games against Everton and Villa at the start of February, but we can’t afford to keep missing opportunities to pick up wins – and this is another one.
Javier Manquillo is back from suspension, but Callum Wilson, Isaac Hayden and Federico Fernandez have been ruled out.
Matt Ritchie faces a late fitness test after suffering a knee injury, Jamal Lewis, Dwight Gayle and Jeff Hendrick could feature after returning to training, but Ciaran Clark looks set to miss out once again – despite Howe saying he is ‘nearing’ a return to full fitness.
For the hosts, Patrick Bamford was expected to return but has now picked up a new foot injury, while left-back Junior Firpo and in-form midfielder Adam Forshaw will miss out after picking up knocks last weekend.
Tyler Roberts and Joe Gelhardt are fit and Diego Llorente is back from a one-game ban, while Kalvin Phillips and Liam Cooper remain out.
Predicted line ups
(4-3-3): Dubravka – Trippier, Lascelles, Schar, Dummett – Shelvey, Willock, Joelinton – Fraser, Wood, Saint-Maximin.
Martin Dubravka – He continues to look below his best and hardly comfortable with the ball at his feet, but he remains our best goalkeeper. After an unconvincing spell for the usually reliable Slovakian, let’s hope he can have a stormer here.
Kieran Trippier – Rock solid last weekend and clearly the most accomplished player on the pitch. Will be tasked with stopping Jack Harrison following his hat-trick at West Ham last Sunday.
Jamaal Lascelles – The captain could be targeted for this one, with Leeds likely to press in a bid to expose his limitations on the ball. Fernandez would be my pick to return if fit, but he remains out. We need the skipper to step up here.
Fabian Schar – More capable on the ball than our other centre-back options, but needs to keep his head in this one. Hopefully he can create from deep and release the likes of Saint-Maximin or Fraser with ball in behind.
Paul Dummett – Kept Dennis quiet in his first start of the season last weekend and is positionally much better than Ritchie. With Raphinha their biggest threat and best player, he’ll have a real job on his hands keeping the Brazilian at bay.
Jonjo Shelvey – Started well under Howe but looked slow and cumbersome against Watford. We need him to be efficient on the ball and diligent off it in this one.
Joe Willock – Howe could well keep faith in Sean Longstaff, but I fear he’d be bypassed too easily against a Leeds side who run more than any other side in the PL. Longstaff tries, however we could benefit from Willock’s pace and ability to go from box-to-box, even if he too has been way below his best of late.
Joelinton – From £40m flop who can’t hit a barn door to box-to-box midfielder who looks like the Brazilian Vieira! He carried Shelvey and Longstaff last weekend and could have a big role to play at both ends here.
Ryan Fraser – Some nice link up play with Trippier last time out and looks much fitter; something that will put him in good stead to match Leeds’ intensity here. Hopefully he can get deliver some good balls into the box for Wood, especially with Firpo out.
Chris Wood – Looked a little rusty on his NUFC debut, however he’s a huge threat in the air and Leeds are known for being poor from set pieces.
Allan Saint-Maximin – Showed what he’s capable of with that piece of magic against Watford and we may need more of that here. I wouldn’t bank on it, but hopefully he helps Dummett deal with Raphinha if he’s struggling to cope.
Leeds XI (4-1-4-1): Meslier – Ayling, Llorente, Struijk, Hjelde – Koch – Raphinha, Dallas, Klich, Harrison – James.
With no new signings through the door this week and that late goal for Watford potentially damaging to the player’s already low confidence levels, I fear for us here.
Leeds put in one of their best displays of the season in that 3-2 over the Hammers last Sunday, having momentum on their side.
Hopefully we can exploit their injury issues all over the pitch and put in a much better defensive display, I just can’t help but feels we’ll see Raphinha run rings around us.
Prediction: Leeds 2-1 Newcastle
HOWAY THE LADS!