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Match Preview: Leeds United v Bolton Wanderers

It's a New Years Day clash at Elland Road and the stakes are high as we get deep into the second half of the Championship season. Both of these clubs have European adventures in their not-so-distant past, but now they are fighting to get back into the promotion battle.

Maybe seeing Leeds again will remind Chris Eagles how to play football.
Maybe seeing Leeds again will remind Chris Eagles how to play football.
Michael Steele

These two sides shared the points in early October, a result that bought Owen Coyle some time, but not much. Bolton dominated the first half on that occasion, yet they could not tale advantage and a late Kevin Davies brace was needed to secure a result. Dougie Freedman has since replaced Coyle, yet the Trotters continue to have many of the same problems.

Let's start with the logistics. This will be the 26th match of the season for each club. Leeds have 35 points and a goal difference of -5. They currently sit ninth in the table, but if Bolton win, they will go above the Yorkshire club. The Trotters have 32 points, but a goal difference of zero. They have scored 39 goals and conceded 39 goals. Leeds have scored 37 but allowed a whopping 42 goals. As we have written for most of the matches this season, there will be goals.

Leeds have some injury troubles, particularly on their front line, and our old friend El-Hadji Diouf could once again make an appearance. Bolton have injury problems of their own, but that is not exactly man-bites-dog type of news. As we all know, Stu Holden, Mark Davies, Josh Vela, David Wheater, and Matt Mills are unavailable.

David Ngog missed Bolton's win against Birmingham City with an ankle problem. Fellow striker Benik Afobe only managed to play a couple minutes Saturday because of a hamstring issue. Both will be limited to a brief cameo if they manage to play at all. Keith Andrews has an achilles problem, but he has managed to play through it thus far.

Bolton played well in the win against Birmingham, and under normal circumstances Freedman might go with the same starting XI. However, this is the holiday period, and the Wanderers will be playing their fourth match in ten days. I think Dougie would like to give both Jay Spearing and Keith Andrews a game off, but at the moment we don't have anyone else to take their places. Chris Eagles should have been dropped weeks ago for his poor form, but he could also probably use a rest. I am not sure what Dougie will do, he is still rather unpredictable in his team choices, but we could see some changes.

One area I would rather not see change is the back line. We have tried several different combinations this season, and none have really worked. That said, I like the Tyrone Mears-Marcos Alonso pairing at fullback. Zat Knight and Tim Ream make everyone nervous, but Sam Ricketts has been poor in his last few games, and Ream may have had his best match since he move dot England against Birmingham.

We would all like to think that the win Saturday was something to build on, and the start of a good run, but we have been fooled so many times over the last 18 months. A victory against Leeds would finally see consecutive wins, and really start the year off on a good note.

Happy New Year Everybody!