With 10 matches to play, Leeds United are officially at the business end of the Premier League campaign. The orchestra is building up to a crescendo as battles at both ends of the table intensify.

It’s that time in the life of a football season when fans take a closer look at their club’s run-in and start speculating about potential point returns from their remaining fixtures.

It’s the fixtures in the “must win” or “must not lose” category fans will be keeping their eyes on, appreciating their importance in clubs’ respective causes. Defeats at this stage of the season could prove fatal to hopes and aspirations. Untimely slip-ups will derail ambitions.

Javi Gracia and all fans of Leeds United persuasion will be acutely aware of the importance of the club’s next two home fixtures against relegation rivals Nottingham Forest and Crystal Palace.

The Forest clash tonight is a proper old fashioned relegation six-pointer, a must-win for us because we should be looking to take maximum points from all our ‘winnable’ home fixtures. The winner of this fixture will give their survival cause a massive boost while pushing the loser deeper into the relegation mire.

Pragmatism will trump romanticism as managers employ tactics geared towards putting points on the board. And yes, that old football cliché rings truest; performances at this stage of the season are secondary to results.

For teams in Leeds United’s or similar positions it is time to start putting points on the board before they run out of games.

The Forest test

Steve Cooper’s men won the reverse fixture 1-0 and football logic dictates that they will be reasonably happy to come away with a draw. A win would be a bonus.

A point would see Forest leapfrog Everton and West Ham in the table, while establishing a bit of cushion between themselves and the teams below them.

They will arrive at Elland Road feeling that they missed a big opportunity to take all three points last time out. They came within a few minutes of beating fellow strugglers Wolves on Saturday only to be pegged back by a late equaliser.

Keeping tabs on rivals

Bournemouth will be hoping to claim a second successive top-half scalp when they welcome high-flying Brighton to the Vitality Stadium. The Cherries beat Fulham 2-1 last time out to lift themselves out of the relegation zone. They will be hoping for more of the same, no doubt realizing the importance of winning their home matches if they are to stand a chance of avoiding the drop.

Elsewhere at the King Power Stadium, managerless Leicester City will host Aston Villa, whose 2-0 victory over Chelsea on Saturday was the straw that broke the camel’s back and caused Todd Boehly to axe Graham Potter as manager.

A defeat here for the home side, who sit second from the bottom following the 2-1 loss at Crystal Palace, would leave the Foxes in a real panic. They will have to dust themselves down and soldier on without manager Brendan Rodgers, who was sacked over the weekend for reasons that are patently clear.

Mind the gap, Saints

In the fight to avoid relegation it’s important to stay in the mix and avoid falling behind the pack. The Southampton carriage is in danger of being decoupled from the train, left behind as shoo-ins for the drop. They are three points adrift of safety having played a game more than their rivals.

But the picture could quickly change though. It only takes one good result to move into a deceptively safe position before another defeat drags you back into the relegation quicksand again.

Time to bounce back

As good as Arsenal were on the day, I felt the 4-1 scoreline last Saturday was harsh on us. We gave a good account of ourselves and had our moments in the game. On another day we would have converted the clear-cut chances we created, especially in the first half.

Nottingham Forest will be a good test for Gracia’s boys and one they will hopefully pass and pass well.

If we prevail tonight and results elsewhere go our way we will jump five places up the table into 12th.

You can not underestimate the psychological importance of moving out of the relegation zone, even if its only for a few days.

Leeds United, how do I love thee!


I'm Barrie Jarrett, born in Leeds, lived over a decade in South Africa, CEO And Co Founder of Planet Sport Limited and Planet Bet Limited.

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