Heckingbottom begins life at Leeds with Sheffield United game

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Paul Heckingbottom begins life as Leeds manager with a Yorkshire derby against Sheffield United at Bramall Lane on Saturday.

Heckingbottom angered Barnsley fans by leaving the club for their Yorkshire rivals only three days after signing a new contract and must now try to succeed where Thomas Christiansen and many others before him have failed by lifting Leeds back up the football pyramid.

Christiansen was sacked following last weekend’s home defeat by Cardiff, which left them without a victory in 2018 and seven points adrift of the play-offs.

Heckingbottom has his sights on promotion to the Premier League but his immediate focus is Saturday’s match.

“It’s a target definitely,” said the 40-year-old. “Two years ago when I was sat in this chair at Barnsley we were 14th and went up. So I know it can be done.

“It’s something that’s definitely achievable, but if you get carried away with me setting that target then you’re putting undue pressure on the club. The next game is what’s important.”

Sheffield United have lost their last two games against Aston Villa and Wolves but boss Chris Wilder is eyeing a repeat of their 2-1 victory at Elland Road in October.

Wilder said on sufc.co.uk: “After playing the team from down the road, this is the next one we all looked for, it’s a great fixture on the calendar. It’ll be a lively game. If we could do a double over Leeds United that would be great. We are playing the top sides and we’re doing OK.”

Arguably the biggest game of the Championship weekend comes on Sunday, when Aston Villa face Birmingham at Villa Park in the second city derby.

It has been a hugely tough week for manager Steve Bruce following the death of his father but he could be back in the dugout.

Assistant boss Colin Calderwood said on bbc.co.uk: “We hope he will be here on Sunday and part of our job is to help throughout the week.

“We’re in contact with him daily. He will pick the team and we will be ready without his presence this week, but his presence is always there with the players anyway.”

Runaway leaders Wolves will look to continue their march towards promotion against QPR at Molineux on Satuday. Wolves have lost only four league matches this season but one of those came at Loftus Road, while QPR also won at Molineux last season.

Rangers boss Ian Holloway told the club website: “Let’s see if we can go there and pull off something that no one believes we can. We beat them there last season and I believe we can do it again.”

Second-placed Derby will look to stay ahead of the chasing pack when they host Norwich while, of the other top-six sides, Fulham travel to Bolton and Bristol City host struggling Sunderland.

Bottom side Burton will hope to end a five-match losing run at Ipswich while, in Saturday’s other matches, managerless Barnsley host Sheffield Wednesday, Preston travel to Brentford, Middlesbrough entertain Reading and Hull visit Nottingham Forest.

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