Venue: Elland Road
Referee: Andre Marriner
TV: Sky Sports
Leeds United and Leicester clash on Monday evening in an Elland Road clash that will give us an early insight as to where these two sides might end up at the end of the season.
We are still in the early stages of this strange pandemic season, but the opening games have provided us with little clarity as to who might claim the Champions League or Europa League places. Both teams featuring look to be staking a claim, yet they are both still hard to place. Luckily for us, and perhaps for them, this game will look to provide some early insight on where they might end up.
Two unknown elements
Leicester’s fifth-place finish last year came after a terrible end to the season, one in which they gave up the Champions League spot they had held for most of the season. Before they crumbled, however, it is important to remember that they were the third-best team in the league.
But some early results this season indicate a possible return to this sort of form. Victories over Manchester City and Arsenal, both away from home, are promising signs for the Foxes. A win against Leeds here will take them up to second place, one point behind Liverpool, and provide evidence that they can certainly replicate the success of last season pre-breakdown.
Leeds’ quality is evident: they look like a team well-suited for the Premier League. But what is less sure is where they will end up in the table. Strong performances against Manchester City, Villa and Sheffield United have shown their potential. But this is marred by losses to Liverpool and particularly Wolves. Leeds are a top-half team, but are they worthy of challenging for the European places?
This game should give us a good idea of how these two teams shape up in terms of the table. A win for Leeds would prove that they can go toe-to-toe with the European teams. A win for Leicester, meanwhile, would suitably establish them as Champions League contenders once more. Regardless of the result, the football that these two teams play, combined with their pedigree, promises an exhilarating fixture.
Proving the doubters wrong
Patrick Bamford arrived in the Premier League surrounded by his fair share of questions. A goal-laden previous season in the Championship was evidence of the striker’s development, but he was not without his doubters. There were questions as to whether he had the quality to be a consistent scorer in the Premier League, and fears that he may follow in the path of strikers such as Teemu Pukki: much-hyped front-men who often fail to deliver on the hype.
But Bamford has responded to these questions with the best type of answer: goals. To be more precise, six in his first six including an impressive hat-trick in his last showing against Villa and a late winner against Sheffield United. Currently joint fourth in the race for the golden boot, Bamford has proven the doubters wrong in the best way – doing exactly what they say you can’t. Goals against Leicester could push him even higher up the goal-scoring charts and further prove his pedigree as a striker for the top flight.
Country roads…don’t take me home
Leicester are accruing a strange record this season as they are better away than they are at home. From their current four wins, three of them have been in the three away games they have played – travelling to places such as the Etihad and the Emirates. From their current crop of home games, they have lost two and only won one. This gives them a 100% win rate when playing away, but only a 33% win rate when playing at home.
Obviously, this is still an early stage in the season, and their two home defeats have been against teams who were in great form, but it could present a strange dilemma for Brendan Rodgers’ side. Their game against Wolves next week will be the true test of this ‘weak’ home form, but for now, strong away showings will provide the basis for their visit to Elland Road: a game they will enter with bags of confidence.
Leeds are still without key man Kalvin Phillips in midfield, out with a shoulder injury, and are also missing Adam Forshaw (hip) and Diego Llorente (hamstring). Liam Cooper, however, is back in contention and will likely slot back into the Whites’ back four. Jamie Shackleton is likely to retain his place in midfield after an impressive performance against Villa after coming on as an early substitute. Other than that, expect regularity from Marcelo Bielsa’s side.
Leicester suffered another injury loss after new signing Timothy Castagne was ruled out until after the international break following a shock hamstring injury. The Foxes are still without mainstays Ricardo Pereira, Wilfred Ndidi and Caglar Soyuncu – but were given some good news as Ricardo (widely acknowledged as Leicester’s best player) is expected to return to action later in November.
Johnny Evans will likely return to the starting XI after missing the mid-week game in Athens, and Rodgers is likely to stick with their 3-4-3 system and retain Christian Fuchs after impressive performances from the Premier-League winning left-back. We could also see a first start of the season for youngster Luke Thomas at wingback.
Predicted Starting XIs
Leeds (4-1-4-1): Meslier; Ayling, Cooper, Koch, Dallas; Klich; Hélder Costa, Rodrigo, Shackleton, Harrison; Bamford
Leicester (3-5-2): Schmeichel; Fofana, Evans, Fuchs; Justin, Praet, Mendy, Tielemans, Thomas; Vardy, Barnes
Score Prediction: Leeds 1-2 Leicester
Leicester come off two away wins on the bounce and I expect them to pick up a third here with Leeds still missing Kalvin Phillips. Leicester may look to stick with the tactic of defensive solidity they employed effectively against Arsenal and counterattacking with the ruthless pace of Barnes and Vardy. Leeds have found it difficult to break down teams who sit back against them and, if Rodgers employs this tactic, will likely find it much easier to play through and break against the Whites than they did against Arsenal.