Derby County will be aiming to move one step closer to a return to the Premier League on Saturday when they host Leeds United at Pride Park in the first leg of their play-off semi-final.
The Rams have been very impressive in recent weeks as victories over the likes of West Bromwich Albion, Bristol City and Queens Park Rangers saw them secure a top-six finish in the Championship.
Whereas Frank Lampard’s side will enter the clash at the weekend brimming with confidence, the same cannot be said for Leeds.
Having not won any of their last four games in the second tier, the Whites are in danger of ending what has been a hugely positive season under the guidance of Marcelo Bielsa on a devastating low.
With the upcoming fixture likely to be settled by whose defence can dominate proceedings, it will be intriguing to see who out of Richard Keogh and Pontus Jansson comes out on top.
Although both of these centre-backs are integral to the success of their respective sides, the battle below will reveal who is the better player.
Since joining Derby from Coventry City in 2012, Richard Keogh has become one of the club’s most consistent players.
Yet despite having played over 300 Championship games for the Rams, the Republic of Ireland international has developed somewhat of a reputation for making an error at the worst possible time for his team with the 2014 play-off final being the most notable example of this.
With his side drawing 0-0 against Queens Park Rangers, Keogh’s failure to clear a Junior Hoilett cross allowed Bobby Zamora to fire in the goal which secured victory and subsequently broke the hearts of Derby’s supporters.
If the Rams’ captain cannot cope with the pressure this weekend, it would not be at all surprising if history repeats itself at Pride Park.
TT GRADE: B-
Having initially joined Leeds on loan from Torino in 2016, Pontus Jansson made a permanent switch to Elland Road a year later and has since gone on to become one of the club’s star performers.
A domineering presence in defence for the Whites, the £5.4m-rated ace (via Transfermarkt) has been very impressive this season as his partnership with Liam Cooper has allowed Marcelo Bielsa’s side to launch a sustained push for promotion.
Although Jansson was powerless to prevent Sheffield United usurping Leeds to a top-two finish in the Championship, the Sweden international will be hoping that he can certify his status as a cult hero in West Yorkshire by leading his side to play-off glory this month.
TT GRADE: B+
Although both defenders are natural-born leaders for their respective sides, if you had to choose a winner of this particular battle, it is clear that Jansson has the slight edge over his counterpart.
Despite Keogh having the advantage of being able to call upon his previous experiences of the play-offs, the fact that he has failed to deliver whilst under severe pressure for Derby will be concerning for Lampard.
In contrast, Bielsa will have full confidence in Jansson being able to deliver when it really matters for the Whites as he has shown on countless occasions during his time at Elland Road that he is not afraid of a challenge.
Derby and Leeds fans, who wins this battle? Join the discussion by commenting below.
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