Leeds travel to second placed Swansea City tomorrow for what is being billed as the latest of our six-pointers as the 2010-11 season draws closer to it’s conclusion.

Ahead of the game, Sanchez Watt has been selected to give the latest Leeds United pep talk in an effort to boost morale and get the fans believing again after two home games where four points were dropped to Norwich City and Barnsley;

“It is a big, big game at Swansea – one of the most important in our season.

“We came back from a goal down to beat them at Elland Road early in the season, and a win on their ground would give us a real boost for the rest of the season. “

Watt goes on to concede that Leeds have been drawing too many games lately, but insists automatic promotion is the aim and claims that was the clubs ambition from day one.

“We made a top-two place our target at the start of the season, and that is still the case.”

It’s nice to hear that the management and players share the same ambitions as the fans, but did anyone really believe automatic was an attainable goal at the beginning of the season? I seemed to be in the minority predicting that we’d end in a play-off spot, and I don’t recall too many people going one better.

The ironic thing is, that at the start of the season the primary concern was whether the new additions would be able to compensate for the amount of goals Jermaine Beckford provided. As it turned out, Ross McCormack and Billy Paynter couldn’t, but the remnants of our 2009-10 team have somehow produced more goals than any other team in the division.

The area no one was really concerned about was the defence. Whilst we probably expected a few tough encounters with the likes of Cardiff and QPR, no one predicted we’d be leaking eight goals against a relatively poor Barnsley side, and six in one game at home to Preston!

Maybe that’s the problem – maybe no one saw this coming? To be fair to the Leeds United management, there was no real evidence to suggest the defence would be an issue. We finished the 2009/10 campaign with the best defensive record in the league, conceding less than a goal per game.

Not for one minute did anyone stop and raise serious questions about the defence. Sure, we all wondered whether Naylor was knocking on the door of retirement and the long-term injury to Patrick Kisnorbo was another concern, but to concede 52 goals in 33 games was way beyond the musings of even the most pessimistic fans.

The reason I bring the defence into question is not to repeat the same thing you’ve read time and time again, but to explain the reasons as to why my play-off prediction remains unchanged. If, after 33 games, we still can’t resolve the glaringly obvious problems with our defensive game then how can we expect to advance from our current position?

Looking back throughout 2010/11, the same problems have persisted since the first few games. Of course, the benefit of hindsight is the greatest skill of every armchair manager, but for me to still be sat here talking about the same problems I was back in September-October, you have to wonder why nothing has changed?

Sanchez Watt is right to highlight tomorrow as a big game. Personally, I think it carries more pressure than he’s letting on. The four points dropped to Norwich and Barnsley means that if we lose this one, we’ll be 8 points off the second automatic position Swansea occupy with just 12 games remaining. More worrying is that if we do lose, the only thing keeping us in the play-off positions may be our goal difference.

On the other hand, if we win then the top six could really tighten up. We’d close the gap on Swansea to just two points meaning that if a couple of other results go in our favour, those two points could be all that separate Leeds United from the Premier League positions.

One defeat in the league in the last four months is not to be sniffed at, and Leeds do seem better on their travels than they do at Elland Road. We also beat Swansea in the reverse fixture, so a win is not beyond the realms of possibility by any means.

What really interests me here is how much the fans think the points dropped to Norwich and Barnsley alongside our continuing defensive frailties will affect our final position. To that end, a new poll has been opened below and you can also add your own thoughts in the comments section.

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