Leeds United face Wigan Athletic on Good Friday in a potentially season-defining game at Elland Road.
Despite the gulf in league positions between the two teams, the Latics could still cause the Whites a few problems as shown in their 1-1 draw with league leaders Norwich last weekend.
There will be one man on the pitch on Friday with extra incentive to throw the brakes on Leeds’ promotion push.
Leon Clarke may not have had many opportunities at Bramall Lane this season but he may yet end up the hero for the Blades if he can find the back of the net against Leeds.
Clarke joined Wigan on loan from Sheffield United in January and he would love nothing more than to score the goal which swings the promotion race in his parent club’s favour.
The striker certainly knows where the net is, bagging 19 goals in the league last season, and although the goals have dried up this year the 34-year-old is still a real danger and in this game – especially as he has a point to prove.
The Englishman will want to send a message to Chris Wilder that he should still be in his plans next season and putting in a performance against the Blades’ nearest competition would go a long way towards helping his cause.
The main part of Clarke’s game is his physical presence as shown by his performances against Hull and Fulham last season.
The six-foot-two striker was often able to get the better of Hull and Fulham’s centre-halves, allowing himself to net seven goals in the two games against the Tigers and the Whites. Tim Ream and Fikayo Tomori both had torrid times against the attacker as he used his body as a battering ram to constantly get into dangerous positions against the weaker defenders.
Liam Cooper a major doubt for Friday’s visit of Wigan. #lufc
— Adam Pope (@apopey) April 17, 2019
With Liam Cooper a doubt for the next match Gaetano Berardi is likely to step up. But if Clarke is allowed to target Berardi it could be a long afternoon for Marcelo Bielsa’s side as he doesn’t possess the strength needed to keep tabs on the target man.
Therefore, Leeds need to use the stronger and larger presence of Pontus Jansson and ask him to man-mark Clarke for 90 minutes to stop him from getting into goal scoring positions. The Swede has the physicality and tenaciousness to stop the Wigan forward and keep him out on Friday, but if he is allowed to target Berardi then Leeds could find themselves a goal down very quickly.