Leeds face their toughest test of their first season in the Premier League... a trip to a team that has not lost for nearly thirty games (bar a slip up at Old Fam Yard) and less than ten points from becoming Champions.
Manchester City without doubt are the team of the season and also, on Tuesday put one foot in the Champions League semi final after a 2-1 win over Borussia Dortmund at the Etihad.
Leeds have already showed they can match themselves well against the top teams by getting three points against Leicester City, Everton away and drawing with Manchester City and Chelsea at Elland Road.
In the early weeks of the season Leeds pushed their opponents on Saturday lunchtime to the very last minute with a superb second half display, Leeds were very unlucky not to win the game. Rodrigo getting the equaliser, his first for Leeds after Sterling had opened the scoring in the first half.
Manchester City will no doubt make wholesale changes for the game with Leeds, they made seven in their last Premier League game at Leciester and still won 2-0. Leeds on the other hand weren’t at their best but still beat Sheffield United 2-1 to claim a ‘double’ over their relegation threatened South Yorkshire rivals.
Marcelo Bielsa will be without Jack Harrison due to the terms of his loan agreement and is expected to keep faith with the centre back partnership of Deigo Llorente and captain Liam Cooper. Harrison’s place will probably go to either Helder Costa or Mateusz Klich.
Even the most ardent Leeds fan won’t expect a Leeds win but many think with City’s eyes may be on their second leg of their quarter final tie in Germany and there might be a chance that Bielsa’s Boys might just grab a point.
Myself I think City will will win by two goals but I think Leeds will score. City 3-1.
By Keith Ingham
A couple of season’s ago Leeds’ promotion hopes fell apart in April with defeats over Easter at home to Wigan and away at Brentford.
Saturday’s opponents Sheffield United took advantage of Leeds’ ‘Devon Loch’ and were promoted along with Norwich whilst Leeds’ season ended in a playoff horror show in the second leg of their tie with Derby County.
Whilst Leeds sharpened their teeth for a another tilt at promotion, Sheffield United adapted well to their new Premier League surroundings and finished in the top ten.
This season has been a different story with ‘The Blades’ losing their sharpness and have slumped to the bottom of the league with only four wins so far this season and look Championship bound whilst Leeds have so far had a great season in their first season in the top flight.
Ex-Leeds Head Coach Paul Heckingbottom has replaced Chris Wilder as coach after Sheffield and Wilder decided to part ways. Injuries are pilling up and they will come to Elland Road without a few key defenders.
Leeds should welcome back captain Liam Cooper, Robin Koch and Rodrigo but they aren’t expected to start unless Marcelo Bielsa drops Ejanni Alioski and brings Cooper into a back three.
Despite their low position Sheffield United won’t be a pushover and most games recently have been won by a single goal. This season Patrick Bamford scored a late, late goal to give Leeds the three points.
If Leeds can get an early goal, some Sheffield heads may drop and the host could win by a couple of goals, but I think it may be closer with both teams scoring but I see the host’s completing a Premier League ‘double’ over their South Yorkshire rivals. Leeds 2-1.
By Keith Ingham
Some things are worth waiting for, a really special birthday, Christmas dinner, meeting a long list friend and...a Leeds win in London!
Friday’s 2-1 over Fulham not only gave Leeds their first win in the capital city since 2017, it moved them 13 points away from their opponents, a league ‘double’ over Mr Parker’s team and won me a few quid for betting on the correct score.
All in all a successful start to the weekend and Leeds deserved it and by a lot wider margin. Luke Ayling’s header ruled offside by the smallest of VAR decisions we have had against us and robbing the viewing public of a celebration to keep in the memory.
‘Bill’ Ayling running away, arms aloft, hair blowing in the spring air and ended with a air guitar solo to commemorate his first Premier League goal. It didn’t count so it loses a little but not all. This is what is ruining football the spontaneous ripped away from players and fans. It’s a poor system and only the people who stand behind it think it’s fit for purpose.
Patrick Bamford got the opener to remind Aston Villa ex player that he is very much the player in form, the only English striker in front of him, goals and assists wise is the current England number nine Harry Kane. The likeable striker grabbing his 14th goal of a productive season.
Of course I have to mention that another set piece caused Leeds to concede once again, making them the highest of the Premier League when it comes to gifting their opponents goals from a corner. Something really needs to be addressed as this happens far too often for the fans liking.
Credit to Leeds they kept attacking and after Fulham missed a golden chance to go in front, twenty odd seconds elapsed before Pat Bamford beautifully slid in a ball for Brazilian winger Raphinha to grab what turned out to be the winning goal.
Illan Meslier kept Fulham out with some superb saves in the first and second half. A very composed performance by the young, soon to be under 21 French international. Fulham will also think that the chances that came their way should have been taken.
It wasn’t a perfect performance, Pascal Struijk and Diego Llorente both didn’t have the best of games in defence, but as a unit the team battled for every ball there to be won, akin to last weekend’s impressive point against Chelsea.
Man of the Match: Kalvin Phillips. Tireless work from the England international. Just pipped Patrick Bamford and Stuart Dallas for the plaudits.
Scott Parker: "I was disappointed tonight. We didn't deserve anything from the game really and the best team won tonight. I thought we huffed and puffed in the first half and were perhaps fortunate to go in at 1-1.
“In saying that, in the second half we miss a massive chance just before they score just over 20 seconds after. But I think it's fair to say the best team won tonight. We struggled at times, and that was disappointing.
“We didn't cope well enough with their intensity. The way Leeds play, they make the game end-to-end, they want the game to be like a basketball match. We spoke about having cool heads in those moments to gain control.
“It's easier said than done, of course it is, but we struggled with that at times tonight. We didn't deserve much from the game. You're always in the game with Leeds. You always have a chance because of the way they play, but tonight wasn't something we've come to see.”
Marcelo Bielsa: “We ran a lot, we defended and we attacked all of us and we deserved the triumph we have taken. There was certain leadership from certain players that helps a lot.
“Fundamentally, the win was deserved and I thought it was a collective game with generosity from a lot of players. They talk a lot about this situation (not winning in London) and I'm glad it is over. I hope it doesn't last that long again."
Shots: 13-13 On-Target: 6-4
Chances Created: 9-9 Big Chances: 2-2
Succ Passes: 239-212
Final Third Passes: 54-58 Succ Crosses: 5-6
Succ Take-Ons: 14-9 Recoveries: 46-53
Tackles Won: 20-25 Interceptions: 10-15
Clearances: 29-38 Saves: 2-5
The only thing that tainted the great performance was the sad news on Saturday that Leeds United top goalscorer ever had passed away after a long illness. ‘Lash’ Lorimer was part of Don Revie’s superb squad and it is so sad that in the 12 months the club has lost four of that squad. We raise our glasses to you Peter.
This blog is dedicated to our top scorer and our respects are sent to his family and friends. RIP Peter Lorimer.
I had the pleasure to meet the great man at a game at Elland Road a few years ago.
By Keith Ingham
Leeds travel to London for the last time this season and go there hoping Fulham’s Craven Cottage is the place they get their first win since 2017 when the beat QPR 3-1 with all three goals from Kemar Roofe.
Last weekends 0-0 draw brought back a little confidence to the fans who were a little concerned with Fulham’s upturn in form meaning the sizable lead from third from bottom is decreasing. The gap is still ten points but a win for the hosts will bring it down to seven with Leeds facing Manchester City A, Liverpool and manu at home in a tough looking April after the international break.
Marcelo Bielsa will have Robin Koch back in the squad that travels to London but they will be without captain Liam Cooper and Rodrigo, both are out with illness(Cooper)and injury.
It is expected that Patrick Bamford will recover from a hip injury that forced him off against Chelsea. Pascal Struijk and Diego Llorente are expected to keep their partnership in centre of the defence. Either Helder Costa or Jack Harrison will play on the wing.
Fulham have won at Everton and Liverpool and have dragged Brighton and Newcastle United into the relegation scramble after some impressive recent results. That saying they have lost their last two home games to Manchester City and Spurs.
Earlier in the season Leeds won a thriller at Elland Road 4-3. It was their first game back in the Premier League for sixteen years at Elland Road. Costa(2), Klich and Bamford were United’s scorers back in September.
With Fulham needing the points to get to safety it could be a very close game with the odd goal the margin of victory. Heart always says Leeds and I think they will finally get a win in London. Leeds 2-1.
By Keith Ingham
Leeds welcomed back Pascal Struijk from injury as he replaced Liam Cooper(illness)as one of four changes to the team defeated at West Ham. Stuart Dallas moved into midfield, Ejanni Alioski came in at left back and Jack Harrison replaced Helder Costa on the left wing. Luke Ayling was captain. Robin Koch was back on the bench after his lengthy absence through injury.
Chelsea changed six from the win over Everton, recalling Mason Mount and Christian Pulisic in attack.
After a brave and battling performance Leeds drew 0-0 with Chelsea. The match might not have been a classic but it had enough in it to keep fans on the edge of their seats from the first minute to the ninety third.
Chelsea had the excellent Mendy in goal to thank for them leaving Elland Road with a point.
The hosts were a little lucky when a deflection hit Llorente and onto the bar, but then into the arms of Meslier. Leeds then had a goal disallowed, Roberts ruled offside as Bamford set him up. Chelsea had opportunities to score but Meslier was again on hand to save his teammates when called upon. Leeds lost top scorer Patrick Bamford to injury, Rodrigo replaced him, leading the line.
The best of Mendy was seen when Roberts turned outside the area and sent a clever chip towards the goal, the Chelsea used every inch of his six foot four frame and finger tips to touch the ball onto the bar and it bounced to safety. Chelsea had the lions share of possession as the half progressed but failed to take advantage of it.
0-0 at the break.
The second half followed the same pattern as the second with Chelsea having most of ball as Leeds fought for every ball. Llorente and Struijk were superb at the back and Tyler Roberts had one of his best games, after struggling in recent games to impress. Leeds despite being on the back foot impressed when going forward.
Chilwell put a good chance wide and Havertz warmed Meslier’s hands when he looked certain to score. Raphinha had Leeds best effort on goal but after going one way Mendy stretched out a hand to save the winger’s goal bound effort.
Rodrigo should have put Leeds ahead, unmarked in the centre of the area he tamely headed an effort straight at Mendy.
Strangely after his chance substitute Rodrigo was substituted by Mat Klich and Helder Costa replaced Harrison as Bielsa sought out the winner, the winger made an impression after being dropped to the bench. Chelsea also made changes but neither team could claim a winner.
Leeds had halted their losing run and deserved a draw at least for their efforts.
Man of the Match: Tyler Roberts, a good effort from the player and so unlucky not to get on the scoresheet.
Marcelo Bielsa: "We value the point a lot, if there had to be a winner it wouldn't have been us. In the first half they established a difference in comparison to us.
“In the second half we were slightly better. The superiority they showed in the first half was greater than the superiority we showed in the second half. If we don't play at the rhythm we play at, the differences between us would be a lot bigger."
Thomas Tuchel: "The pitch was super-hard to play. We had a couple of chances to go 1-0 up, and in the end they troubled us, and the more minutes you need to score, the more belief they have.
There were enough chances, but sometimes it's like this. I don't want to be too harsh. As long as we have chances and touches in the box and don't concede too many chances the results will be there. We need to accept this."
Leeds should be very proud of their efforts against a good Chelsea team.
Every ball there to be won was challenged for and the centre back pair of Llorente and Struijk held their own against all that Chelsea could muster. On to Fulham on Friday!
By Keith Ingham
Leeds after only one win in five games welcome Chelsea to Elland Road on Saturday.
The two teams have plenty of history between them started in the 60’s. Without doubt there is a certain acrimony between the clubs fans not helped by a certain white bearded man and I don’t mean Santa!
Chelsea are in fantastic form dropping only two points in their last five Premier League games and also having a 1-0 first leg leads in their Champions League tie with Atletico Madrid. In their last two games they have beaten last year’s stumbling Champions Liverpool at Anfield and also beaten Everton at home.
Since the removal of ‘fat’ Lampard and the appointment of Thomas Tuchel they have shown that maybe it was their coach that was at fault for the earlier disappointing results not the vastly recruited squad. They have more than enough to give Marcelo Bielsa’s team plenty to worry about. Chelsea won the earlier game in the season 3-1, this despite Leeds taking the lead through Patrick Bamford.
Marcelo Bielsa has a stronger squad to pick from with the return of Kalvin Phillips, Diego Llorente to the starting line up and Gaetano Berardi and Ian Poveda back amongst the substitutes. Leeds still lack Pablo Hernandez and Jamie Shackleton. There is also the doubt over Pascal Struijk who missed the defeat at West Ham.
It has to be seen if Stuart Dallas is kept in midfield due to him having a good game despite being on the losing side. Rodrigo, who came on in the second half with Jack Harrison will hope to have done enough to be in Bielsa’s starting line up against Chelsea. Helder Costa and Tyler Roberts didn’t do enough, in my opinion to keep their places ahead of Rodrigo and Harrison.
With Chelsea in the form they are in it’s very hard to see anything but a victory for them but Leeds have shown in the draws at Elland Road with Manchester City and Arsenal that when they are in good form they can ‘mix it’ with the best of the teams who are supposed to be the elite.
If they can get a draw it would be seen as a good result by the Leeds fans sat watching their TV’s. Unfortunately I don’t see it happening. Chelsea 3-1.
By Keith Ingham
Leeds welcome winless Southampton on Tuesday night for a game under the lights at Elland Road.
United themselves are without a win since their last home game when Crystal Palace were beaten 2-0.
Marcelo Bielsa will be once again without Kalvin Phillips and Rodrigo for the game with ‘The Saints’. Both are unvailable and join Robin Koch, Gaetano Berardi, Ian Poveda and long term absentee Adam Forshaw on the sidelines, the good news is that all are making progress in training and getting ready for first team inclusion in the next month or so.
Leeds have certainly missed their key midfielder in recent games.
Bielsa expected to keep the same X1 that was very unlucky to come away from Wolverhampton empty handed, sometimes football matches can not give you what your performance deserves, last Friday was certainly one of those. In that performance both Jamie Shackleton and Mat Klich played in the holding midfielders role and it is expected for them to continue with Tyler Roberts supporting Patrick Bamford in attack.
Tyler Roberts impressive in recent games.
Southampton may also be without key players for the game with Leeds, the South Coast team who were top of the Premier League earlier in the season lost six games in a row recently before holding Chelsea to a 1-1 draw at St Mary’s at the weekend.
No game is easy, I’ve said this more than once this season and another tight encounter is expected. It may be a single goal that separates the teams, but this time I hope that the winner comes from a player in white.
By Keith Ingham
Arsenal went above Leeds thanks to a hat trick from Patrick Aubamayeng on his return to the side. The ‘Gunners’ were 4-0 up before Leeds scored two late goals in a spirited fight back, but it was too late to stop the hosts claiming the three points.
Arsenal made five changes from the side that lost 1-0 at Aston Villa. Leno came back in from suspension to replace Ryan in goal, while David Luiz was also back to replace Rob Holding in defence. Elsewhere, Odegaard, Ceballos and Aubameyang started, replacing Lacazette, Pepe and the injured Partey.
Leeds made just one change from the 2-0 win over Crystal Palace Kalvin Phillips is out, replaced by Jamie Shackleton for just his second Premier League start of the season. Luke Ayling moves to centre back, Shackleton goes in at right back and Pascal Struijk moves into midfield alongside Mat Klich and Stuart Dallas.
Arsenal: Leno (6), Bellerin (7), Gabriel (7), Luiz (7), Soares (6), Xhaka (7), Smith Rowe (7), Ceballos (7), Saka (9), Odegaard (7), Aubameyang (9) Subs: Willian (6), Elneny (NA), Holding (NA)
Leeds: Meslier (3), Ayling (5), Cooper (6), Struijk (6), Alioski (5), Shackleton (5), Dallas (5), Harrison (6), Klich (5), Raphinha (6), Bamford (5) Subs: Roberts (6), Costa (6), Huggins (6)
Leeds travelled to Arsenal hoping to banish a hoodoo that has run back to 2017 ... winning a game in London. It didn’t start well for Leeds as they were behind after 13 minutes. Patrick Aubamayeng drifted in did a few step overs then stepped between Ayling and Cooper before hitting a shot inside Meslier’s near post. The keeper will not be happy with his effort to save the shot.
Things could have got worse but VAR overturned the referee’s decision to award a penalty when Cooper got the wrong side of Saka. The reprieve didn’t last long, Meslier got in a muddle when the ball was passed back to him, the ball got away from him and in his efforts to get the ball back he fouled Saka.
This time a penalty was awarded and Aubamayeng did the rest with a penalty into the left corner as Meslier dived right. 2-0 down with forty minutes played. The nearest Leeds had come to a goal is when Bamford headed wide from an excellent cross from Jack Harrison earlier in the game.
With time almost up in the first half Belllerin made it 3-0 after a superb Arsenal move had ripped up the Leeds defence. His hard hit shot was far too hot for Meslier and a pretty awful first half ended with Leeds having a massive hill to climb in the second half.
The second half was only minutes old when Aubamayeng made it four. Helder Costa and Tyler Roberts both second half substitutes for Jack Harrison and Jamie Shackleton got in each other’s way and gifted the ball to Smith-Rowe who floated a ball to the back post where Aubamayeng completed his hatrick with a diving header.
To their credit Leeds simply got on and got a goal back from Pascal Struijk, a fantastic header from a corner kick and ten minutes later Costa reduced the lead to two with a cute flick over Leno. Game on! Arsenal mind you still threatened and both Aubamayeng and Saka hit the woodwork, Saka’s effort wouldn’t have counted as he was offside. Raphinha at the other end hit one wide from just inside the area, it was a good chance and Bielsa was clearly upset by the missed opportunity.
The last quarter saw Leeds denied a clear penalty when Bamford became the ‘meat’ in a Arsenal defenders sandwich. Anywhere on the field it surely would have been a foul but the referee waved away Bamford’s appeal for a spot kick. Meslier made a superb save to deny Arsenal a fifth.
Leeds MOTM: Tyler Roberts, impressive performance from the bench.
Mikel Arteta: “He (Aubamayeng) has been training really good, he wants to get back, he wants to help the team and I could see this week, I had a feeling to put him as the No 9 today and he has done the job.
The amount of chances we created and the type of goals we scored today really pleased me. The attacking patterns we had today, the confidence that the team had against a team that is constantly pressing you to be comfortable to get out of this situation. Overall, a lot of positives."
Marcelo Bielsa: "When we were building from the back, we didn't manage to take the ball from our half to their half, there were no surprises for either of the two managers, they knew how we were going to press and they resolved this.
And we knew how they were going to press us and we didn't manage to resolve this. And in the second half the opposite happened. In the first half we didn't defend well. And we didn't defend well because the ball went from back to front too comfortably, too easily for Arsenal."
Unfortunately these games happen but not very often. I think Bielsa got the line up wrong but what do I know, too many round pegs in square holes. Still Leeds are eleventh and nobody would argue they don’t deserve to be where they currently are.
We move on to Wolves on Friday night.
By Keith Ingham