Leeds United this week play hosts to Gus Poyet’s Brighton in a 9th vs 10th clash between two teams aiming for a play-off finish.

Brighton & Hove Albion

After an impressive start to the season, Brighton & Hove Albion’s form dropped off considerably towards the end of 2011 leaving them 16th heading in to the New Year. However, they’ve started 2012 as one the Championship’s in-form teams, undefeated in January with 3 wins and a draw in the league.

Brighton’s impressive start to the year continued in the FA Cup. After scraping through a 3rd round replay against Wrexham, Gus Poyet’s side knocked Premier League Newcastle United out in one the fourth rounds biggest shocks. The Seagulls can now look forward to a trip to Anfield to take on seven times FA Cup Champions, Liverpool.

Brighton’s current team features a couple of faces that will be familiar to Leeds United fans, namely Casper Ankergren and Wolves loanee Sam Vokes. Neither will be expected to start this weekends clash, but Sam Vokes could make an appearance from the bench.

The young attacking duo of Will Buckley and Ashley Barnes, both 22, are two of Brighton’s most valuable assets. With 15 goals between them so far this season, the pair will pose a constant danger to Leeds United’s defence. Brighton’s biggest threat however will be Craig Mackail-Smith. Currently leading the assist chart for Albion (6), he’s also managed 7 goals thus far, 2 of which came in the last meeting with Leeds.

Leeds United

With three additional games to prove himself worthy of the managerial position, it’s unlikely that caretaker boss Neil Redfearn will deviate too much from the tried and tested formula that saw Leeds United beat Bristol City 3-0 – albeit, with a fair bit of assistance from the referee.

The key man for Leeds is undoubtedly Robert Snodgrass. The Scottish winger has more assists than anyone else for The Whites this season (9) and has also chipped in with 11 goals, putting him second only to Ross McCormack (15) in the top scorers chart.

Redfearn’s biggest test over the next few games will be whether or not he can make a 4-4-2 formation work that accommodates both Luciano Becchio and Ross McCormack. The caretaker manager will also have to prove his capabilities defensively, an area that Leeds United have struggled to perform consistently in since promotion from League One.

Alongside that, Redfearn will also have to prove he can manage the pressure inherent in the managerial role at one of the biggest clubs outside the Premier League. With supporters currently campaigning for change, the unrest that has overshadowed on-field events remains a big issue. It’s a precarious situation Neil Redfearn finds himself in where there is little room for error and even less patience offered by the fans and media. For Redfearn’s career and the immediate future of Leeds United, this match is a big one.