Derby County v Leeds United – 11/05/19

It was inevitable really.

The conspiratorial swish of Kappa sports gear in the Derbyshire countryside was enough to spark a diplomatic, if not thunderstorm, then certainly bluster just after the turn of the year. We know what the media dubbed it.

In the tedious regurgitation of a Nixon reference that lost both its novelty and aplomb decades ago, the airwaves crackled with convoluted condemnation as a bemused Bielsa looked on in bewilderment.

In the associated football match that broke out among the circus, Leeds completely dominated their supposedly irate and fired-up visitors, winning the game 2-0 and completing the double on The Rams.

The faux-outrage, subsequent match and emasculating Power Point presentation not only resulted in Derby erecting a hilariously inept defence mechanism against any future espionage, but diverted attention from the drubbing that Leeds had already given Frank Lampard’s Derby County © at Pride Park earlier in the season.

A Kemar Roofe brace sandwiched between a Klichisscoringgoals opener and an Alioski finish saw the Whites prevail 4-1 and the 2-0 win in January gives the Yorkshire side a 6-1 aggregate advantage over Derby County for this season.

But to paraphrase a man who infamously had a foot in both camps (well, a foot in Derby and brief toe in the Elland Road water), you can throw all that in the bin. This is the Play-Offs and all bets are off.

Leeds’ record in this squeaky-arse end-of-season lottery is distinctly uninspiring, although it has given us some terrific moments; the sliding Becchio finish against Millwall in 2009, Howson’s edge-of-the-box winner over Carlisle in 2008.

There is a real traditional feel around the Play-Offs this season with Leeds, Derby, West Brom and Aston Villa battling their way out of the most spiteful of snake pits towards the nirvana of the Promised Land.

Let’s discard all that heartbreak and romance and concentrate on 2019 and this Semi-Final 1st Leg away to Derby County.


Long-term midfielder absentee Andy King appears to be the only Derby player officially on the injury list, but striker Martin Waghorn is struggling with an Achilles problem and while Leeds are missing left back options Barry Douglas and Gjanni Alioski, neither are new casualties that would pose Bielsa a fresh selection dilemma.

Stuart Dallas is likely to get the nod having fulfilled the role in an interim capacity, edging out Gaetano Berardi for the left back slot.

Patrick Bamford, currently serving a ‘suspension through sports court’, according to, for his deception in the heat of Aston Villa match is the only player missing the game through previous ill-discipline.


The Rams have fared well of late, winning three of their last five games to clinch the final Play-Off spot with victory over West Bromich Albion last weekend.

Leeds’ collapse in form has been well-documented over the last few weeks, ten-man Wigan, ten-man Ipswich and eleven-man Brentford inflicting defeats on the Whites as the automatic promotion challenge faltered in the final furlong.

The dismal run masks the consistent performances that Leeds have been putting together, with the customary domination of possession an ever-present throughout their last five games. The Elland Road side have unravelled through individual defensive errors, the kind of errors that are ruthlessly punished when we are less than ruthless up front.

Roofe v Keogh

With Bamford suspended, Kemar Roofe made his return to the starting line-up against Ipswich Town. By the 81st minute, he must have wished he’d stayed on the bench.

The former Oxford United man watched his header bounce back off the post for Dallas to bundle home before sending his own penalty high into the East Anglian air. For a man chasing the confidence of a goal, this was a draining experience.

Roofe will be up against Derby captain Richard Keogh. The Republic of Ireland international has been an ever-present for The Rams and his passion and wide-eyed enragement have become a trademark.

Bamford’s suspension could prove to be a blessing in disguise when it comes to Keogh. Roofe’s slightly more abrasive style of forward play will be more troublesome for the centre-half, who may have felt his own aggression and physicality would have been able to bully the more timid former Middlesbrough man.

Cooper v Waghorn

Should he prove his fitness, Martyn Waghorn will be the man to lead the Derby line against Leeds at the weekend. The physical striker is just one strike off double figures for the season, but will have a formidable foe in Whites’ skipper Cooper.

The Derby man was kept very quiet in the two previous meetings between the sides and Cooper, alongside his partner Jansson, has been in formidable form. The Scot and the Swede appear to interchange well, alternating between attacking the ball and sweeping in behind for the break and are difficult to break down when organised.

The issues have arisen when Leeds have been hit on the break and their pairing, particularly Jansson, are out of position. In this situation, does Waghorn have the pace and precision to take advantage?

Stuart Dallas v Tom Lawrence

With Dallas deputising at left back for the injured Alioski and with Harrison providing limited cover in front of him, left back is a position in which Derby will feel they can hurt Leeds.

In Tom Lawrence, they have a pacy and tricky winger capable of both testing Dallas and curbing the attacking influence of Ayling on the far side.

Leeds have been vulnerable of late down their left flank and it appears to be an area opposition teams are targeting when facing The Whites.

Hernandez v The Derby Defence

Pablo is a special player. He has the ability to unlock a defence with an inch-perfect pass and has stepped up to provide the team with goals at crucial times throughout the season, but his form, like the team as a whole has been patchy of late. Coincidence?

His tears after the Brentford defeat pulled at the heartstrings of every Leeds supporter, but they will be hoping he can rekindle some of the form that saw him named on the PFA Championship Team of the Year.

If he does, we’ll all be smiling. Except maybe Pablo.

Lampard v Bielsa

I know, I know. But let’s attempt some objectivity here.

The Whites effectively smothered the Derby challenge the last time they visited Pride Park, their dominance almost absolute, leading Lampard to admit that his side were “well and truly beaten by a very good team” in his interview following the 4-1 home defeat.

The hostility of the January meeting soon faded when Leeds again dominated their opponents to win 2-0 and Bielsa’s precise explanation of Derby’s tactics in his now infamous press address inadvertently fanned the flames.

“We do analysis too” was Lampard’s smiling response. The former Chelsea midfielder is keen to play down the motivational effect of the whole sorry affair, but inside the walls of the dressing room I imagine it will be a different story. A Kevin Keegan style “I would love it” may be closer to the truth.

Bielsa has the tactical upper hand and by accident rather than design, the psychological edge too.

A look through the history books sees this fixture continually provide drama, quality and a biting edge to proceedings. With a packed Pride Park awaiting two sides who will feel they both have a point to prove, Saturday’s evening kick-off could provide a classic.

Or of course, Derby could win 3-0 with 4% possession. What do I know?