PREVIEW: Luton Town v Leeds United

Luton Town are back at Kenilworth Road this weekend
Luton Town are back at Kenilworth Road this weekend

Leeds United fans will be hoping that this year is finally the one in which they win a long-awaited promotion back into the Premier League.

Relegated out of the top flight in 2004, the Whites even dropped down to League One for a few seasons between 2007-2010 , before getting themselves back into the Championship.

They had looked certainties to go up last term, as with just four games to go, Marcelo Bielsa's side found themselves in second spot.

However, a surprise 2-1 home defeat to struggling Wigan Athletic started a run of one draw and three losses, as they were eventually pipped by Sheffield United.

The play-offs were a huge disappointment too as despite doing what had looked like the hard work by winning at Derby County, a 4-2 defeat on home soil, with ex-Hatter Jack Marriott netting twice, condemned them to another season in the second tier of English football.

Despite the outcome, Bielsa remained in charge of the club, as owner Andrea Radrizzani activated a 12-month extension to his contract, saying: “Let’s have another go. I am delighted Marcelo has agreed to stay for another year – we have unfinished business.

“We were close and next season we will work harder to achieve our goal."

There weren't too many permanent arrivals at Elland Road in the summer, only Liam McCarron joining from Carlisle United.

It was the loan market where Bielsa did most of his business, selling young midfielder Jack Clarke to Spurs for £8.5m and then bringing him him straight back.

That move hasn't appeared to have worked just yet though with Clarke only playing two EFL Cup games since returning.

Bielsa did make some other eye-catching additions though, Helder Costa from Wolves, plus Eddie Nketiah from Arsenal and Brighton's Ben White, along with Jack Harrison from Manchester City and Lorient's Illan Meslier.

The Leeds chief moved a number off the wage bill too, over 15 players heading out of the club, including some big hitters like Kemar Roofe to Anderlecht and Bailey Peacock-Farrell, Burnley playing £2.5m for the young goalkeeper, while defender Pontus Jansson headed to Brentford.

Eager to get over their play-off heartache, United made a good start to proceedings, winning 3-1 at Bristol City and went on to register four victories from their opening five games, with the only dropped points, a 1-1 draw with Nottingham Forest.

They eventually lost at home to Swansea, before recovering to beat Barnsley, although it was the start of a slight sticky patch, with just one win from four, although that one did come against league leaders West Bromwich Albion.

Leeds then went down 2-1 at Millwall on October 5, but appear to be back on track now, unbeaten since then, with three wins and two draws,

United's form has been based on a rock solid defence rather than blowing teams away, conceding just nine goals so far, easily the best in the division, including a mere five on their travels from eight games, keeping eight clean sheets in total.

Scoring goals at home as been their main concern, as although the Whites have picked up five victories, they've done so netting just nine goals, while bagging 12 on the road in four wins.

There was some good news off the field last week too, with former Spain international, playmaker Pablo Hernandez, 34, signing a new contract until the end of the 2021-22 campaign.

Team news: Luton boss Graeme Jones should have an almost clean bill of health, with only striker Danny Hylton (knee) absent.

For Leeds, joint top scorer Eddie Nketiah is out with an abdominal problem, but captain Liam Cooper (groin) and Stuart Dallas (hamstring) could be fit..

Jamie Shackleton is a doubt with a quad problem, as Gjanni Alioski is available, although Adam Forshaw (hip) is still out.

Top scorers: Hatters: James Collins, Harry Cornick (5). United: Patrick Bamford, Eddie Nketiah (5).

Man in the middle: John Brooks - Second Luton game in quick succession after taking the recent 3-2 defeat at Fulham, one of his 12 matches so far, showing 40 yellows and no reds.

Last season, he had 40 matches, brandishing 156 cautions and five dismissals, but hasn't sent anyone off now for almost a year, since December 2018.

Took the Hatters' 0-0 draw against Barnsley in League One last season, while the year before, had the whistle for Luton's 1-1 League Two draw at Cambridge, sending off James Collins for two bookings.

Also officiated Luton's 3-0 win over Hartlepool in February 2017.

Assistant referees are Paul Hodskinson and Geoffrey Russell, with the fourth official Andy Woolmer.

In charge: Marcelo Bielsa – 64-year-old Argentine had a brief career as a defender for Newell's Old Boys, Instituto and Argentino, but retired aged just 25 in the 1980s.

Coached the youth teams of former side Newell's Old Boys to begin with, before taking over the first team in 1990.

Had a spell in Mexico, with Atlas and América, before returning to his home country once more at Vélez Sarsfield, where he won the 1998 Clausura.

Appointed manager of Espanyol in La Liga in 1998, but left to take over the Argentina national team, as he managed them in the 2002 World Cup, failing to get out of the group stage.

During his reign, Argentina were runners-up in the 2004 Copa América, but won gold in 2004 Olympic Games, Bielsa retiring at the end of the year.

Took over as Chile boss, masterminding a win over Argentina in October 2008 as he qualified for the 2010 World Cup, reaching the last 16 where they were knocked out by Brazil.

Resigned in February 2011 and later that year, went to Athletic Bilbao, reaching the final of the Europa League in 2012, losing 3-0 to Atlético Madrid.

A disappointing 2012–13 season saw Bielsa not offered a new contract, as his next spell came as Marseille coach in May 2014, but left his post in August 2015 after conflicts with the club's management.

Back in work in July 2016, taking over at Serie A club Lazio, but quit just two days later, claiming the club had been unable to recruit the players he had wanted.

Returned to management the following year, unveiled as Ligue 1 club Lille chief, suspended after 13 games and then having his contract terminated in December.

His first job in England followed in June 2018, as he headed to Elland Road to replace Paul Heckingbottom.

Won his first four games in charge, the first Whites manager to do so, before being accused of spying by Derby boss Frank Lampard in January of this year, the club fined £200,000 by the EFL, which was paid by Bielsa.

Lost out on promotion to Sheffield United as they finished third and were beaten in the play-offs by Derby, but remained as coach for this season.

View from the opposition: Boss Marcelo Bielsa - “What I usually say. I repeat the same because I think the same.

“This time the difference in the table is difficult to pose in the game, in the competition.”

One to watch: Patrick Bamford – 26-year-old striker, who began his career at Nottingham Forest, before heading to Chelsea for £1.5m in January 2012.

Spent five years at Stamford Bridge, although didn't actually make a first team appearance and like many, was shipped out on loan to various side, scoring goals for MK Dons, Derby County and Middlesbrough.

His last three moves didn't come off though, failing to net for Crystal Palace, Norwich and Burnley, although that didn't put off Middlesbrough from shelling out around £6m for his services in January 2017.

Ended his goal drought that had stretched to just over two years for Boro, going on notch 14 times in 53 games.

Headed to Leeds for £7m in July 2018, bagging 10 in 25 matches last term and made a good start to the current campaign, with four in his first five league outings.

Failed to find the net for the next 10 matches, but was back on the scoresheet ahead of the international break, in the 2-1 win over Blackburn Rovers.

Friendly faces: Town club captain Alan Sheehan signed for Leeds on loan from Leicester City in January 2009, playing 10 times and scoring once.

Made the move permanent in the summer, playing 14 more games for the Whites, scoring another goal, as he had loans at Crewe, Oldham and Swindon in that time, before moving to Swindon in August 2010.

Attacking midfielder Izzy Brown was on loan at Leeds from Chelsea in the 2018-19 season, but only made two substitute appearances after an injury-hit campaign.

Defender Martin Cranie had a trial period at Leeds in July 2012 when Neil Warnock was in charge, but opted to join Barnsley.

Leeds midfielder Eunan O'Kane joined Town on loan in August last season, playing four times, before suffering a serious injury in the 1-0 win over Bristol Rovers which saw him out for a number months and he hasn't played since.

Played for both: Kevin Nicholls – was signed by Joe Kinnear for the Hatters from Wigan for a fee of £25,000 in August 2001, rising to £150,000 on appearances.

Made almost 200 appearances in his first spell, scoring more than 30 goals from midfield.

Joined Leeds United for £750,000 in July 2006, but only stayed for a season at Elland Road, playing just 15 times, as he was stripped of the captaincy by then manager Dennis Wise for apparently wanting to return to Kenilworth Road,

Went to Preston for the 2007-08 season, where he played 20 games, before getting his move back to Luton in July 2008.

Played another 51 games, and lifted the Johnstone's Paint Trophy as he called time on his Hatters career due to persistent injury, with 238 appearances and 33 goals to his name.

We've got form: Luton have definitely had the better of meetings with Leeds at Kenilworth Road throughout their history.

They started with a bang, winning 6-1 in Division Two on Boxing Day in 1947, Joe O'Brien, Sid Ottewell, Ted Duggan, Bobby Brennan (2) and Frank Soo on target in front of almost 17,000 at Kenilworth Road.

Town were beaten for the first time in 1951, losing 3-2, before winning the next two and then a sequence of five draws in a row ahead of another thumping success, 5-1 in the FA Cup third round in 1959, Billy Bingham (2), Tony Gregory (2) and Bob Morton scoring.

Luton suffered a first defeat in eight years and eight games, going down 1-0 in Division One during 1959, but bounced back to regain the upper hand once more, going on to put five past the Whites in 2006, when Carlos Edwards (2), Rowan Vine, David Bell and Markus Heikennen scored during a 5-1 Championship victory.

The last league game at Kenilworth Road saw Sam Parkin score a last-minute leveller to ensure their game finish 1-1 as in total, Town have won nine, drawn 10 and lost just four of their 23 meetings, scoring 38 goals and conceding 23.

Last time out: Luton Town were beaten 1-0 by Leeds in their Carling Cup first round tie at Kenilworth Road in August 2016.

Tyler Denton's strike on 23 minutes settled the tie, although Luton striker Jack Marriott did miss two glorious chances when clean through on goal.

Hatters: Christian Walton, Stephen O'Donnell, Dan Potts, Johnny Mullins, Glen Rea, Jonathan Smith, Jake Gray (Jordan Cook 56), Cameron McGeehan, Olly Lee (Isaac Vassell 75), Danny Hylton (Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu 66), Jack Marriott.

Subs not used: Craig King, Scott Cuthbert, James Justin, Josh McQuoid.

Referee: Kevin Johnson.

Attendance: 7,498.