Look at the table and tonight's encounter screams mid table mediocrity! Leeds sit in 12th place, comfortably adrift of the top 3, and Burnley in 13th, well above the bottom three. Revert to the old system of three up and three down - which would have seen West Ham comfortably promoted last season by the way - and this game would be a virtual dead rubber already.
True, the play offs mean that mediocre, average joe teams can still, if they are very lucky, scrape through to promotion, but check the recent record books and you will see that the play offs are really only a commercial device. The team that finishes third finishes third for a reason, because they are the third best team in the division. So, come a two leg play off, that team generally comes out on top. True the final is still a theoretical lottery but, more often than not by far, the third best team proves superior to the fourth of fifth also rans. The play offs simply prevent games like Burnley v Leeds being anodyne affairs a quarter of the way through the season!
All that said, defeat tonight would spell catastrophe for both teams. You can only slip so far beneath the plimsoll line before Archimedes' principle applies and you sink without trace. Burnley and Leeds are sitting on that line, and if either one overcomes the other, all hopes of automatic promotion will disappear for the defeated team, even though this is a shite division packed with ordinary teams.
Worryingly for Warnock, Burnley are the form team going in to the game and are the only team to average two goals per game in the opponent's net. Leeds, in contrast, have had the least number of shots on goal and least number of shots on target of any team in the division. They are sitting in twelfth courtesy of resilience, not brilliance, and resilience can only take you so far. Class will out, and the better team will out class Leeds.
Significantly, all games Leeds have won this season have been by a single goal margin. Leeds have not dominated a single team so far because they lack the quality to dominate.
The result tonight? I'm setting myself up here but I fancy a 2-1 or 2-0 win for Burnley, or a 2-2 draw. Any form of defeat will effectively kill off dreams of automatic promotion for both teams and a lone point will do little to help the promotion cause for either.
Warnock needs more than effort and commitment; Warnock needs class. But who in the present squad represents genuine quality? This is a must win game, but you can bet your life that Warnock will term it a good point if the games ends in a draw. A good point for a mid table team treading water in the hope of Allah's intervention!