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Forest file out Aina, Awoniyi in pre-season test against Leeds Utd

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Two Nigeria stars, Ola Aina and Taiwo Awoniyi are expected to be on parade as Nottingham Forest file out against Leeds United in pre-season friendly at Burton Albion’s Pirelli Stadium.

Forest and Leeds spent much of the previous campaign battling to avoid relegation from the Premier League, but the West Yorkshire outfit failed to beat the drop.

Forest continued their pre-season preparations with a 2-1 victory over Levante last weekend, with Ryan Yates opening the scoring inside the first minute before Danilo added a second midway through the first half.

Levante pulled a goal back through Alejandro Cantero before Taiwo Awoniyi received an unlucky red card considering the circumstances, but Forest managed to hold on and come away with the win.

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The Tricky Trees have played three friendlies this month, recording two wins and one draw, with a 1-0 victory over local rivals Notts County and a 1-0 defeat to Valencia preceding last weekend’s victory against Levante.

Given that Forest have friendlies against PSV Eindhoven, Rennes and Eintracht Frankfurt scheduled before the 2023-24 Premier League season gets underway, Steve Cooper has ample time to get minutes into his players’ legs.

The Reds looked destined for relegation last term before picking up three wins and two draws across their final six games to finish four points clear of the drop zone and seven points above relegated Leeds United.

To say that Leeds experienced a tumultuous 2022-23 campaign would be an understatement, as the club went through three permanent managers before finishing second from bottom in the table – five points inside the relegation zone.

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Following the sacking of Jesse Marsch in February, Javi Gracia oversaw three wins, two draws and seven losses between February and May before survival specialist Sam Allardyce replaced Gracia with just four matches remaining.

However, Allardyce failed to win any of his four matches in charge, overseeing one draw and three losses, while the Whites finished the season on a nine-game winless run of two draws and seven losses, underlining their struggles.

Former Norwich City manager Daniel Farke has been appointed as Allardyce’s successor, and the German boss arrives at Elland Road with an impressive track record, having guided the Canaries to two Championship titles between 2019 and 2021.

That said, Farke has endured a disappointing start to life at Leeds, suffering 2-0 defeats against Manchester United and Monaco, so the new manager will be eager to get off the mark when his side take on Forest.

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In comparison to last summer’s spending spree, Nottingham Forest have so far kept a relatively low profile during this summer’s transfer window, processing a limited number of arrivals and departures.

Chris Wood’s loan deal from Newcastle United has been made permanent, while Ola Aina has joined from Italian side Torino, with Jesse Lingard, Jack Colback and Andre Ayew among the handful of players on the club’s released list.

Twenty-two-year-old goalkeeper George Shelvey has featured in all three pre-season friendlies as Forest search for a new first-choice stopper, while Joe Worrall, Remo Freuler and Scott McKenna have also featured in all three games.

As for Leeds United, they have lost a number of key players since suffering relegation, with Rodrigo, Robin Koch, Tyler Roberts, Brenden Aaronson, Rasmus Kristensen and Marc Roca leaving the club.

On a brighter note, Ethan Ampadu has joined the Whites from Chelsea, and the Welshman played the full 90 minutes as Leeds lost 2-0 to Monaco last weekend.

Nottingham Forest possible starting lineup:
Shelvey; Aina, Worrall, McKenna, Drager; Yates, Kouyate, Freuler; Danilo, Awoniyi, Aguilera

Leeds United possible starting lineup:
Meslier; Ayling, Cooper, Hjelde, Struijk; Ampadu, Gray; Gnonto, Sinisterra, James; Rutter

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