Leeds United will be aiming to move one step closer towards a return to the Premier League when they face Wigan Athletic on Good Friday at Elland Road.
The Whites are currently second in the Championship standings and with just four games left to play this season, they are control of their own fate.
In contrast, the Latics are fighting to avoid relegation to the third tier of English football and know that a defeat at the hands of their opponents could see them fall into the drop zone if Rotherham United pick up a victory against Swansea City.
Although Paul Cook’s side have experienced a torrid campaign this year, the club’s supporters have been thrilled by the impact that Reece James has made since joining on loan from Chelsea in the summer. Undoubtedly gifted, the teenager seemingly has a bright future ahead of him yet is he better than Leeds’ right-back Luke Ayling?
Let’s have a look at this battle below.
Since joining the Whites in 2016 after a four year stint at Bristol City, Luke Ayling has been an ever-present figure for the club, making over 100 league appearances for the club. An incredibly consistent defender, the 27-year-old has improved considerably since the arrival of manager Marcelo Bielsa last summer who has given him the licence to attack opposition sides this season.
As a result of this new-found freedom, Ayling has provided four assists for his team-mates whilst also scoring two goals with his performance against Millwall on March 30th inspiring Leeds to a 3-2 victory.
With promotion on the cards for the Yorkshire-based outfit in May, it will be intriguing to see whether the defender can make the necessary adjustments to his game which will be needed in order to thrive in the Premier League.
TT GRADE: A-
For those who do not watch the Championship on a regular basis, Reece James’ inclusion in the division’s Team of the Year must have come as somewhat of a shock when you consider where Wigan are in the league standings. Yet the 19-year-old’s outstanding performances have been one of the few bright sparks in what has otherwise been a gloomy season for the Latics.
After joining on a season-long loan deal in the summer, James has developed into one of England’s brightest young talents with many wondering what the future could hold for the defender. It could be argued that without his exuberant presence this year, Wigan may have already been relegated and so if they secure second-tier football for the 2019/20 campaign, they will owe a lot to the player.
Regardless of what happens between now and May, it is clear that James is destined for stardom which he could achieve at his parent club Chelsea if given the opportunity to impress.
TT GRADE: A+
With both defenders enjoying brilliant campaigns at their respective clubs, it is extremely difficult to separate them in terms of quality.
However, despite the fact that Ayling has played an influential role for his side in their race for promotion, James’ impact on Wigan has arguably had a bigger impact on their fortunes this year and therefore takes victory in this battle.
Leeds and Wigan fans, who do you think wins this battle? Join the discussion by commenting below.
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