A SPICY derby, a big gun in town and a choice re-run from the spring. That is the main fare ahead of this weekend’s Yorkshire action, the final act before Premier League and Championship sides cool their boots in another fortnight-long international hiatus. Here’s five weekend crackers to savour for our White Rose sides.
1: Leeds United v Barnsley.
The subplot to this one was a bit of an unexpected and unwanted one, with both Yorkshire clubs receiving headlines that they would have prefered not to see as part of a Daily Telegraph ‘Football for Sale’ expose.
Leeds offered their take on proceedings by declaring the broadsheet’s implication of owner Massimo Cellino as a ‘non story’.
But the ramifications for the Reds former assistant head coach Tommy Wright were far more significant, with the Oakwell outfit dismissing him after he was cited amid corruption allegations.
Wright’s exit has disrupted the Reds’ working week, no doubt, with Paul Heckingbottom putting his players in the picture in a Thursday morning meeting.
Yet equally, Heckingbottom has spoken about not using the surprise events as a potential excuse and has urged his side to ‘stay strong.’
Certainly the Reds have shown their mettle and character on countless occasions this year - think the dual Wembley dates and key final-league game at Wigan when everything was on the line. Saturday should not be a problem.
For Leeds, the midweek defeat at Bristol City was a narrow one and a high-octane game with the Reds represents a chance to get back ‘on the horse’ as they endeavour to finish off before the latest international break in a different vein to the previous one, when they lost at Nottingham Forest.
United in a decent place at present, touch wood..
2: Hull City v Chelsea.
Hull head into the game on the back of two heavy league defeats to Arsenal and Liverpool and the fixture list has not afforded them too many favours with the arrival of a Chelsea side who are smarting after a 3-0 loss at the Emirates - and have their batteries recharged with no European football this term.
In the final analysis, Hull will not be judged on games against the likes of Chelsea. But they will in their run of games after the international break versus Bournemouth, Stoke, Watford, Southampton and Sunderland.
But they should resist the temptation to think too far ahead. After conceding nine goals in two defeats, the psychological blow of another heavy beating could be damaging and lingering heading into the two-week break.
Hull need to take a leaf out of their dogged template against Manchester United earlier this term, hopefully without the sting in the tale at the death.
3: West Ham v Middlesbrough.
There is one word to describe tomorrow’s game at the London Stadium. Tense - with a capital T.
For West Ham - if you listen to the pundits - there is respite in the shape of the arrival of a Boro side who are struggling for attacking verve and potency, with the Teessiders having registered the least shots on target of any top-flight side this term.
Confidence is a little fragile at bruised Boro after three successive losses. But the Hammers have some king-sized issues too after five league defeats in six this season, with their new stadium having proved unaccommodating so far. More like a house of pain.
Boro need to be dogged, box clever and perhaps prey on the nerves of an agitated home crowd tomorrow.
4: Sheffield Wednesday v Brighton.
A rewind to that pumped-up and pulsating occasion in the spring when the Owls, in front of rocking Hillsborough crowd, put one foot in the play-off final with a powerhouse performance against the Seagulls.
Wednesday will be seeking to round off a good week which has seen them beat Forest and Blackburn in fitting fashion, but conscious of the step up in class in terms of opposition.
Brighton, given that painful and recently recent loss at S6, will probably need no team talk either.
But like in May, they will be without key midfielder Dale Stephens, who is suspended once more.
Can lightening strike twice and Wednesday claim another headline-grabbing win..
5: Rotherham United v Newcastle United.
The formbook points to one thing, let’s face it. Away win. But strange things sometimes happen in the Championship.
Newcastle have flexed their muscles on several occasions this season, if not quite finding the requisite levels of consistency that they need to nail down a top-two spot.
Their last-gasp 4-3 win over a bonafide promotion rival in Norwich will ensure that they arrive in South Yorkshire on a real high, but while the Millers are doing it tough after a six-match winless streak, perhaps the arrival of the Geordies is a timely one.
It is a game where the Millers can adopt a them-and-us siege mentality and strive to play the underdog card which has served them so well in the past at this level - under Steve Evans and for those with longer memories, Ronnie Moore.
Last season, the Millers clipped the wings of the promoted duo of Boro and Hull and also beat Brighton. Inspiration aplenty.
Raucous home occasions have also yielded back to back wins over Leeds in the past two seasons and the Millers need to embrace Saturday’s sell-out occasion once more for all that it is worth. And then, you just never know.