Tottenham Hotspur and Leeds United will be eager to return to winning ways when they lock horns at Elland Road on Saturday.
The games continue to come thick and fast across Europe, with Gameweek 27 of the 2021/22 Premier League season beginning this weekend. The action on Saturday will kick off with a lunchtime fixture at Elland Road, where Leeds United will play hosts to Tottenham Hotspur.
Leeds United have endured a difficult 2021/22 season, with an injury crisis playing a key role in their struggles thus far. The Whites have constantly missed pivotal players this term, and it is hardly surprising that they are currently on a seven-game winless run across all competitions, with their most recent result a 6-0 thrashing from Liverpool.
As a result, Marcelo Bielsa’s future is the subject of speculation, with Paulo Fonseca the latest manager linked with Leeds United. Much like Bielsa, Antonio Conte is far from a happy person in his own role managing a football club, having struggled to galvanise Tottenham Hotspur.
Spurs have constantly taken a step forward and two steps back under the tutelage of the Italian tactician. The latest example was their inexplicable 1-0 defeat to Burnley, which came mere days after what an uplifting 3-2 win over Manchester City. That prompted Conte to make a tough assessment of his future as the Tottenham manager.
Tottenham came from a goal down to beat Leeds United 2-1 in the reverse fixture back in November. Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Sergio Reguilon were on target for Spurs, while Daniel James scored in the first half for Leeds. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter.
Team News & Tactics
? #?????? ???? ????: “Llorente and Koch are available.” pic.twitter.com/yxCDqX6zDL
— Leeds United (@LUFC) February 25, 2022
Marcelo Bielsa has been handed a major boost on the team news front ahead of the visit of Tottenham Hotspur. On Saturday, the Leeds United manager will be bereft of the services of as many as five first-team players.
The good news from the pre-match press conference is that Robin Koch (head) and Diego Llorente (hamstring) are available to take on Tottenham after recovering from their respective issues. But Liam Cooper (thigh), Leo Hjelde (knee), Kalvin Phillips (hamstring), Sam Greenwood (knee) and Patrick Bamford (ankle) remain on the sidelines.
Koch should be reinstated to the starting eleven straight away in what is a major positive for Leeds. The German defender will pair up with Pascal Struijk at the heart of the Leeds defence, with Llorente missing out. Koch’s return means Luke Ayling will move out to the right-back spot, with Junior Firpo taking up the left-back slot.
The two full-backs will carry a lot of threat on their forays down the flanks but will need to be wary of leaving too much space behind them for Son Heung-min and Lucas Moura to exploit. Illan Meslier will brace himself for another busy outing between the sticks against Tottenham.
Adam Forshaw will again be the lone holding midfielder for Leeds but will receive plenty of defensive support from Stuart Dallas, who will move up the pitch into a midfield role. Dallas’s presence higher up the pitch will also add another dimension to Leeds’ attack, putting Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg under more pressure.
But Bielsa will hope for Raphinha to fare better after a sub-par display against Liverpool. The Brazilian will take his usual right-wing berth, with Jack Harrison stationed on the opposite flank. Rodrigo Moreno will look to be direct in his approach from the central areas but will primarily play off Tyler Roberts.
Probable Lineup (4-1-4-1): Meslier; Ayling, Koch, Struijk, Firpo; Forshaw; Raphinha, Dallas, Rodrigo, Harrison; Roberts
Unlike his counterpart in the Leeds United dugout, Antonio Conte has a pressing fitness issue to contend with ahead of the trip to Elland Road. The Tottenham Hotspur manager could be without three first-team players on Saturday.
The major concern surrounds Rodrigo Bentancur, who suffered an awkward fall in the midweek tie against Burnley. In addition to the Uruguayan international, Japhet Tanganga (knee) and Oliver Skipp (groin) remain on the sidelines and will not be involved against Leeds.
#thfc There are concerns that Rodrigo Bentancur could be out for around 3 weeks. (@Dan_KP) pic.twitter.com/JoP6DLRet4
— Lilywhite Rose ?? (@Lilywhite_Rose) February 25, 2022
In Bentancur and Skipp’s absence, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Harry Winks pick themselves in the central midfield spots. But the duo will need to be more proactive in the middle of the park to push Tottenham forward at a quicker tempo.
One key decision from Conte could see Dejan Kulusevski being employed as a right wing-back following Emerson Royal’s sub-par performance against Burnley. The Swede’s directness from the right-wing could be a welcome change for Conte, while Sergio Reguilon will reprise a more traditional role on the opposite flank.
Harry Kane’s trademark dropping runs will create space for the two wingers, who will primarily look to cut in to create space out wide for the wing-backs. Lucas Moura looked solid off the bench against Burnley and will have the chance to make an impression on Saturday. But Kane will be the main man for Tottenham, with his ghosting runs holding the key in unlocking a vulnerable Leeds defence.
At the back, Conte will stick to his guns and deploy Cristian Romero, Eric Dier and Ben Davies as the three centre-backs again. But Davies will need to be more compact and disciplined to contain the maverick Raphinha. Hugo Lloris is an automatic pick between the sticks.
Probable Lineup (3-4-3): Lloris; Romero, Dier, Davies; Kulusevski, Winks, Hojbjerg, Reguilon; Lucas, Kane, Son
- Leeds United have won just one of their last eight Premier League games against Tottenham (D1 L6), though it did come in this exact fixture last season (3-1). Spurs have been victorious in just two of their 13 Premier League away games against Leeds (D3 L8), with those victories coming in May 1996 (3-1) and January 2004 (1-0).
- West Ham United (2-1 in September) and Arsenal (4-1 in December) have won at Elland Road this season in the Premier League. The last time three teams from London all won away at Leeds in a season in the league was in 1995/96 (QPR, Arsenal and Spurs all winning).
- Leeds United have lost three of their last four Premier League home games, as many as they had in their previous 17 at Elland Road. They have not lost three consecutive top-flight home games since November 2003.
- Raphinha has scored 40% of Leeds’ Premier League home goals this season (6/15). Indeed, the Brazilian and Rodrigo Moreno (2) are the only Leeds players to score more than one league goal at Elland Road so far this term.
- Harry Kane has scored ten goals in his eight Premier League games played in Yorkshire – only Alan Shearer (16) has netted more as a visiting player in the county than the England captain.
Player to Watch
Since joining Tottenham from Juventus, Dejan Kulusevski has made an immediate impression, showing just why Fabio Paratici has shown faith in him for a second time. While Antonio Conte is not entirely comfortable managing younger players when he needs instant results, Kulusevski is one of the exceptions to the rule.
Conte has already shown that he can exploit the immense potential Kulusevski possesses, as was glowingly on full display against Manchester City. The key for the Swede will be to be consistent with his performances to become an indispensable figure for the Tottenham boss on the right-hand side, starting with the game versus Leeds United.
Leeds United 0-2 Tottenham Hotspur
Saturday’s fixture is just the kind of game wherein Tottenham can drop needless points in their quest for a top-four finish. That trait was on full display against Burnley, with Tottenham not carrying nearly enough threat to win the game. But a porous Leeds United defence will give Spurs ample opportunities to score.
Despite Robin Koch’s return, Tottenham will have enough quality to score more than once, with Harry Kane continuing his solid run of form. At the opposite end, the north Londoners will have the chance to keep a rare clean sheet, which they should duly do on Saturday. The Hard Tackle thus predicts a 2-0 win for Antonio Conte’s men.
Leave a Reply