Leeds FanZoners George and Tom Chellis take all a look at Leeds' festive fixtures and ask whether the games will make or break the season.
After a lacklustre defeat at the hands of Blackburn, an impressive midweek victory against Wigan and an inspiring comeback against Watford on Saturday, the words 'mixed bag' spring to mind. Having navigated our way through a week of difficult fixtures with a reasonable return, we at @LUFC_Calypso turn our attentions to the demanding Christmas fixture list that awaits, and how the period that so usually contributes to our downfall could be so important come the end of the season.
Back to back Yorkshire derbies, the first against Doncaster at the Keepmoat Stadium followed by a home match against Barnsley are games from which an in-form Leeds United must surely be looking to secure maximum points. If our promotion ambitions are to be realised, these are the potential banana skin fixtures that must be negotiated without dropping points. Following this, difficult fixtures against Blackpool and Forest on the 26th and 29th of December respectively will provide us with a real test of our progression so far this season, with both teams proving to be promotion rivals. Finally, with the return fixture against Blackburn, a chance to avenge the aforementioned loss, takes place on New Year's Day and, following that, our busy festive period reverts to a more normal structure. We feel that yielding 10 points from these games would be a reasonable return. As the biggest test on a developing squad, a quick succession of difficult matches will be the ones that will give us a real insight into whether our so-called 'purple patch' is exactly that or simply a sign that we've turned a corner this season.
For the first time in several seasons, many consider us to be genuine promotion contenders, and the hard work of the first 19 games would all be in vain should the heavy workload of the festive period get on top of us. Sitting in 8th and only one point off a promotion spot, we're in a great position in the prolonged run-up to the business end of the season. With a decent goal difference and good momentum behind us, the importance of the next 10 games cannot be over-emphasised.
Although it is critical that we do not get ahead of ourselves, it is worth noting that several teams around us are just starting to show signs of a dip in form. QPR seem to struggle killing off games with the all-important second goal at times, highlighted by their 0-0 draw at home this weekend. With Burnley winning their first game this weekend since late October, their reign as a seemingly unbeatable force also looks to be coming to an end. Leicester's back-to-back defeats this week have seem them knocked off top spot, and Derby, Reading and Blackpool have all endured inconsistent seasons at times. This league is crying out for a team to take a hold of it as Cardiff did so effectively for much of their victorious campaign last season, and as it stands, not one team seems to want to take on the mantle as the one to beat. Peaking at just the right time could be the difference between a good season and an unforgettable one. For now, let's just keep ourselves in the hunt, starting with our Christmas fixture list.