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Championship

As Leeds United falter, Sol Bamba is leading a promotion charge

Sol Bamba and Cardiff City could be making their way back to the Premier League.

Mathew Nash

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Leeds United’s flickering hopes of making it into the Championship play-off picture were firmly extinguished last night. Wolves claimed a 3-0 triumph at Elland Road to end the fleeting hopes of promotion for Leeds this season.

Leeds’ season started with such promise. After a change of manager and some intriguing recruitment they looked like genuine promotion contenders. That has not proved to be the case. Leeds sacked Thomas Christiansen and have failed to get back to winning ways. Currently they sit 13th and many a Leeds fan has had enough.

What rubs salt in the wounds? The fact a former Leeds captain, let go as he was deemed not good enough, could be heading to the Premier League.

MIDDLESBROUGH, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 27: Leeds United’s Sol Bamba floored during the Sky Bet Championship match between Middlesbrough and Leeds United at the Riverside on September 27, 2015 in Middlesbrough, England. (Photo by Richard Sellers/Getty Images) ***Sol Bamba***

At the start of last season Sol Bamba had his contract at Leeds terminated by mutual consent. After his excellent start to life at Elland Road he had faltered. After dropping behind Pontus Jansson, Liam Cooper and loanee Kyle Bartley in the pecking order the Leeds captain was let go.

Cardiff City took full advantage and signed him on a free transfer with Neil Warnock hoping he could help them in their march out of relegation trouble. He certainly did just that and this season he has done more.

CARDIFF, WALES – DECEMBER 01: Cardiff manager Neil Warnock celebrates with defender Sol Bamba after the Sky Bet Championship match between Cardiff City and Norwich City at Cardiff City Stadium on December 1, 2017 in Cardiff, Wales. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

He has played 35 times this season as Cardiff continue to shock the Championship predictors. The Bluebirds are currently on a five-game winning streak in the second-tier. Such form has Bamba’s side in a shock position of second in the table and four points clear of Aston Villa third.

It would just reek of Leeds United’s recent luck if the captain they let go at the start of last season was to guide Cardiff to promotion. One major issue for Leeds has been their struggles at centre-back this season, both in form and fitness.

If only they still had Bamba to call upon.

Wolverhampton Wanderers

Wolves signing Miguel Veloso would reunite him with long-time partner Joao Moutinho

The Portuguese pair formed a formidable partnership for both club and country and could potentially do similar at Wolves.

Mathew Nash

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Wolves are being linked with a move for free agent midfielder Miguel Veloso. TEAMtalk are suggesting that the newly-promoted side are looking to add the 56-cap Portugal international to their fold this week. He is a free agent having left Genoa and Everton are reportedly also keen.

It would be an interesting signing for Wolves and one which, on paper, certainly makes sense. Veloso is represented by the Jorge Mendes ran Gestifute company. He is also a player with an illustrious record, winning titles with Sporting and Dynamo Kiev.

At Sporting he was considered one of Portugal’s most promising young talents. He was not alone in that respect. He came through to the first-team picture in Lisbon at the same time as another central midfielder, one Wolves fans will know very well.

Miguel Veloso, Yannick and João Moutinho during the Under 21 Championship Play-offs between Portugal and Russia in Porto, Portugal on October 10, 2006. (Photo by CityFiles/Getty Images)

Both Veloso and Joao Moutinho came through at Sporting in 2005. The pair went on to form a formidable partnership in the heart of Sporting’s midfield for the next five years. In 2010, both men left. Veloso headed to Kiev, whilst Moutinho made a controversial switch to Porto.

Moutinho went on to establish a reputation as one of the more consistent central midfielders in Europe.

So this summer, when Wolves signed him for a bargain fee of just £5 million, it was an eye-catching piece of business.

If they could also secure Veloso, the pair might be able to rekindle some of their old magic at Molineux.

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Leeds United

Bielsa’s Engine Room: Kalvin Phillips continues to thrive in new Leeds role

The 22-year-old came through the Elland Road academy system.

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Kalvin Phillips
Photo: Getty Images

After Marco Bielsa’s Leeds United continued their impressing winning start to the season this weekend, recording a 2-1 victory over Rotherham, several players are being highlighted for praise.

Among those who deserve the majority share of the plaudits is 22-year-old Kalvin Phillips, who continues to thrive in the playing style implemented by the club’s new boss.

A player capable of keeping it simple at the base of the midfield, Phillips has proven to be astute defensively and comfortable in possession – key traits for a player to thrive in the Argentine’s system.

Against Rotherham on Saturday, he registered 112 touches, more than any other player on the pitch and a personal best for the club.

He also completed the most passes on the day (88), recorded more interceptions than anyone else (six) and created two chances, one of which went down as an assist.

Rotherham marked a third exceptional Championship performance of the season for the youngster, with his movement and distribution keeping the ball ticking over in central midfield.

The academy talent is proving himself to be a force in central midfield for the Whites, quickly establishing himself as the lynchpin of the Bielsa revolution at Elland Road.

If Phillips can maintain this level of performance he will be integral in the club’s promotion push throughout the remainder of the season.

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Aston Villa

One to Watch: Aston Villa’s Jack Grealish at his creative best vs Ipswich

The Villa youngster was exceptional again this weekend.

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Jack Grealish
Photo: Getty Images

Jack Grealish again proved why he is Aston Villa’s most important player in their attempt to gain promotion back to the Premier League with an excellent performance in Villa’s 1-1 draw with Ipswich Town on Saturday.

The 22-year-old’s wonderful display was underpinned by the 28 passes he completed in the final third – which, according to WhoScored was more than any other player had managed in a single Championship game thus far this season.

Grealish also completed five key passes in the game, bringing his season total to 11 – more than any other player in the league other than Norwich’s Ben Marshall (also 11).

Furthermore, the Englishman completed five of his six dribbles in the game.

(Photo by Neville Williams/Aston Villa FC via Getty Images)

Steve Bruce spoke glowingly of Grealish this week on TalkSport.

“He’s arguably the best young player I’ve had in terms of ability. He can do something where he can lift you off your seat, he’s such a natural footballer and of course he’s grown up a bit,” the Aston Villa manager said.

“For me, he’s going to be a top, top player.”

It is hard not to agree with Bruce. Not only does it appear as though Grealish has matured greatly in the last 12 months, his performances since the turn of the year have been astounding – he has arguably been the division’s best player in that period.

His constant menacing against Ipswich was no different – he has started this season brightly.

He has now been offered a new contract by Villa, according to BBC Sport, and looks set to stay with the club for short-term after a move to Tottenham Hotspur broke down this summer.

If he can manage to help guide Villa to the Premier League, he may be there for the long-term.

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