Derby v Leeds
Saturday May 11, 17:15
Live on Sky Sports
Derby impress to cement sixth
Derby boss Frank Lampard said he was "proud" after guiding the Rams into the Championship play-offs with a 3-1 victory over West Brom last weekend. Needing a win to be certain of a sixth-place finish, County impressed with goals from Martyn Waghorn, Mason Bennett and Harry Wilson in front of a packed-out Pride Park.
With the scores level in an open encounter after half-time, Derby stepped up a gear and seized control, eventually being rewarded for their stylish and brave efforts with two goals in three minutes as the contest crept into the final quarter. Youngsters Mason Mount, Tom Lawrence and Wilson were particularly eye-catching as Lampard's troops sought top honours.
The hosts are hoping to have Ashley Cole available for selection with the ex-England international close to a return from injury. Should he miss out, Scott Malone will continue at left-back. Elsewhere, Craig Bryson, Richard Keogh and Waghorn are all rated doubtful but are expected to shake off niggles to feature for the Rams in some capacity.
Leeds limp over the line
Leeds head south having limped over the line into the play-offs. Marcelo Bielsa's men were beaten by a stoppage-time goal at already-relegated Ipswich in their most recent encounter having missed out on automatic promotion a week earlier. Goals from Mateusz Klich and Stuart Dallas weren't enough at Portman Road, whilst Kemar Roofe missed a penalty.
Bielsa was at a loss to explain the defeat, Leeds' third in their final four games, saying "We conceded three goals and this is something that is honestly impossible to explain and we also only scored two goals, which is also difficult to justify." The Whites won the shot count 27-6 in Suffolk and enjoyed 65% of the ball on another frustrating afternoon.
With Patrick Bamford banned for the first leg, Roofe will again lead the line in attack for Leeds. The visitors aren't expected to make any sweeping changes to their preferred starting XI on Saturday, although Tyler Roberts has a chance of being fit and could feature from the start if deemed ready. Adam Forshaw could be the man to make way.
Visitors are vulnerable first leg favourites
Leeds ran out victorious in both regular season encounters with Derby this season and head to Pride Park having lost just once in their most recent four trips (W2-D1-L1). The visitors will be buoyed by the fact the third-placed side has won promotion via the play-offs more often than any other position but Marcelo Bielsa's men arrive in poor form.
Leeds' 2.568/5 return of just a solitary point from their last four fixtures (W0-D1-L3) is their worst run of the season with abject defeats recorded against Wigan, Brentford and Ipswich. The Whites have undoubtedly been the best Championship side outside of the top two across the whole campaign but mental and physical fatigue concerns appear validated.
No team has taken part in the second-tier play-offs as often as Derby 3.2011/5 but the Rams have only once earned promotion from seven previous play-off campaigns. County have collected W6-D5-L1 in their most recent 12 league tussles and put in impressive cup performances at Old Trafford, Stamford Bridge and St Mary's under Frank Lampard.
Only one of the last 13 clubs to finish sixth in the Championship has earned promotion via the play-offs, and although Derby's record against the division's leading lights is hit-and-miss, the hosts will be confident of at least heading to Elland Road without a first leg deficit.
Goals at a premium?
First leg play-off contests are notoriously cagey. Just three of their past 12 Championship semi-final fixtures have featured both sides scoring and in first legs alone across the whole EFL, the average goals per-game sits at a measly 2.10 as 67% of ties produced Under 2.5 Goals profit, making the 1.758/11 available for a repeat appealing.
In fairness, both clubs were prolific goalscorers throughout the regular season. Collectively, the duo have failed to score in only eight of their combined 46 home/away outings with 26 (57%) of those encounters returning successful Both Teams To Score bets. However, the pressurised nature of the play-offs means I'm more comfortable opposing goals here.
Same Game Multi
Derby flattered to deceive for large swathes of 2018/19 but Frank Lampard's charges have found their feet in the final few months and command respect on Saturday evening. Only the top two picked up more points at home and the Pride Park club can be backed to avoid defeat in a match featuring Under 3.5 Goals at an attractive 1.85.
Leeds have been put through the emotional wringer during the automatic promotion race and the Whites might not have an immediate response to their recent poor performances.