Match Preview: Bolton Wanderers v. Leeds United

Michael Steele

I'm a bit sick of saying this, but Saturday brings about yet another "must-win" game for Dougie Freedman and Bolton Wanderers. This time out we entertain the biggest club in the world: Leeds United.

One of the famous old names of English football, Leeds United have suffered a torrid time in the last decade. From the glory of David O'Leary's exciting young side in 1998 - one which failed to finish lower than fifth place in the Premier League, including fantastic runs to the Semi-Finals of both the UEFA Cup and the Champions League. However, the bubble spectacularly burst in 2002 when their financial mismanagement led to a fire-sale of their best players, and subsequent relegation to the Championship at the end of the 2003/4 season following a defeat against a certain Bolton Wanderers at the Reebok.

It took until the 2010/11 season for Leeds to return to the Championship - an embarrassing relegation to League One in 2006/7 saw them stay in the third tier for three seasons, returning as runners-up in 2009/10 under the management of Simon Grayson.

Since their return to the Championship, Leeds United have been, by their standards, relatively stable, finishing 7th, 14th and 13th respectively. Currently managed by ex-Reading slaphead Brian McDermott, Leeds have begun the season in reasonable form, eliciting two wins, two draws and a defeat from their five games thus far.

McDermott has continued Leeds' revolving door transfer policy since his arrival - this Summer has brought in four players, namely Matt Smith from Oldham Athletic, Luke Murphy from Crewe Alexandra, Noel Hunt from Reading and young centre half Scott Wootton from Manchester United. Nine players have left Elland Road with notable names including Steve Morison on loan to Millwall and geriatric centre-half Leigh Bromby who has given up on his personal challenge of playing for every club in Yorkshire by retiring from the game.

Leeds are a funny club. Leeds itself is the third largest city in the country, with a population (estimated in 2011) of over 750,000 inhabitants. Very strange, then, that in a one-club city such as Leeds that they only had an average attendance of 21,572 last season in the Championship. Often lauded as a club with a "fantastic" following, yet with statistics clearly not backing that up - perhaps Leeds are not the "big" club that their supporters would wish them to be. Granted, they have tremendous history, but that was a very long time ago.

Bolton Wanderers have a long history with Leeds United, having first played the previous incarnation of the club, Leeds City, in 1908 (we won, naturally). In total, we have faced them 61 times, winning 25, drawing only 13 times and losing 23 games. The Npower Championship games against Leeds last season was our first meeting with them since 2004 as our clubs' respective fortunes differed greatly in that period.

Last Five Meetings
01.01.2013 - Leeds United 1 v 0 Bolton Wanderers
02.10.2012 - Bolton Wanderers 2 v 2 Leeds United (Kevin Davies x2)
02.05.2004 - Bolton Wanderers 4 v 1 Leeds United (Youri Djorkaeff x2, Ian Harte OG & Kevin Nolan
22.11.2003 - Leeds United 0 v 2 Bolton Wanderers (Kevin Davies, Stelios Giannakopoulos)
16.12.2002 - Bolton Wanderers 0 v 3 Leeds United

Prediction
Heart - Bolton Wanderers 3 v 0 Leeds United (Jermaine Beckford x3)
Head - Bolton Wanderers 1 v 0 Leeds United (Jermaine Beckford)

Ahead of the clash, Bolton Wanderers are fully fit with Andre Moritz finally reaching his desired levels while Marc Tierney and Chris Eagles are back from their respective injuries. Expect a lot of changes from the side that was beat in embarrassing fashion at Blackburn Rovers.

Another tough game for the Wanderers. Leeds are no slouches and will provide a tough and physical test for the lads. I hope that an early goal (or two) comes in and settles down what will be a tetchy crowd in the wake of recent results and the lack of transfer deadline day activity at the Reebok Stadium. Bolton Wanderers need a win and it should come here. I hope. I pray!

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