Leeds United will be looking to register their first victory of the 2020/21 campaign, when they take on Fulham at Elland Road this weekend.

Two newly-promoted teams will square off against each other on Saturday afternoon, as Leeds United play hosts to Fulham at Elland Road in matchday 2 of the 2020/21 Premier League.

Leeds, back in the big time after 16 years, put up a spirited performance in their season opener against champions Liverpool, but were unlucky to lose 4-3. This was followed by a penalty shootout exit from the Carabao Cup second round against Hull City, meaning Marcelo Bielsa & co. are still waiting for their first win in the new season.

However, the Whites will have a great chance to open their account when they lock horns with Scott Parker’s Fulham. The Cottagers were handed a 3-0 beating by Arsenal on the opening day, but bounced back with a 1-0 win over Ipswich Town in the Carabao Cup. And, they will fancy their chances against a familiar opponent on Saturday.

The two teams met twice last season in the Championship and picked up a victory each, with Leeds winning the latest encounter 3-0. And ahead of their meeting this weekend, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both the squads.

Team News & Tactics

Leeds United

Bielsa will be looking for his first Premier League win on Saturday (Photo by George Wood/Getty Images)

Bielsa will be looking for his first Premier League win on Saturday (Photo by George Wood/Getty Images)

The good news for Leeds United is that captain and defensive mainstay Liam Cooper is closing in on full fitness and is expected to be available for the Fulham game. However, Adam Forshaw remains sidelined for the hosts. Bielsa made wholesale changes to his lineup for the cup game, but should recall his regulars on Saturday.

Illan Meslier is likely to come back in goal replacing Kiko Casilla. Luke Ayling and Stuart Dallas ought to return to the starting XI in the full-back slots, while the returning Cooper should pair up alongside new signing Robin Koch at the heart of the Leeds defence. Pascal Struijk could be in line for a start in case Bielsa decides not to rush Cooper back.

There is no looking beyond the brilliant Kalvin Phillips in the holding midfield role. The England international ought to start on Saturday, after being benched for the cup tie. Seasoned campaigner Pablo Hernandez ought to line up as one of the attacking midfielders, alongside Mateusz Klich, who scored in the opening game against Liverpool.

Helder Costa, who was rested for the Carabao Cup clash earlier this week, should return to the side, slotting in on the right flank. Jack Harrison should replace Ezgjan Alioski on the left wing, despite the latter scoring against Hull City in the cup tie.

Club record signing Rodrigo Moreno hasn’t made the best of starts in England. After a rather dull display in the cup game, he should drop out of the starting XI, making way for Patrick Bamford, who scored against Liverpool last weekend.

Probable Lineup (4-1-4-1): Meslier; Ayling, Koch, Cooper, Dallas; Phillips; Costa, Hernandez. Klich, Harrison; Bamford

Fulham

Fulham will be without midfielder Jean Michael Seri, who has rejoined training only this week after having been in quarantine. Fellow midfielder Stefan Johansen is also a major doubt owing to a foot injury. Scott Parker has no other injury issues to contend with ahead of a very important fixture.

Alphonse Areola is in line to make his Premier League debut against Leeds (Photo by OSCAR DEL POZO/AFP/Getty Images)

Alphonse Areola is in line to make his Premier League debut against Leeds (Photo by Oscar del Pozo/AFP/Getty Images)

The manager fielded a much-changed XI for the cup game against Ipswich and may opt to stick with some of the players that did well in the cup tie. Alphonse Areola, who managed a clean sheet in midweek, should be in line for his Premier League debut in goal on Saturday. Marek Rodak, who started against Arsenal, ought to drop out.

Another player set for his Premier League debut will be right-back Kenny Tete, who could be preferred over Denis Odoi. At left-back, Joe Bryan should come back into the side for Antonee Robinson. Michael Hector and Tim Ream ought to return at the centre of the backline after not featuring in midweek.

Captain Tom Cairney should return to the starting XI, slotting in one of the midfield pivot positions. Partnering him should be Harrison Reed, although both Mario Lemina and Andre Frank Zambo Anguissa are both in with a shot to feature. Josh Onomah should come in as the attacking midfielder and look to create chances in the final third.

Aleksandar Mitrovic scored the only goal against Ipswich Town and having recovered to full fitness, must start on Saturday. Ivan Cavaleiro ought to return on the left flank, after being an unused substitute against Ipwsich whereas Anthony Knockaert should be retained on the right wing, although Neeskens Kebano is a serious contender to start.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Areola; Tete, Hector, Ream, Bryan; Reed, Cairney; Knockaert, Onomah, Cavaleiro; Mitrovic

Key Stats

  • After their 3-0 win over Fulham in June in the Championship, Leeds United are looking to win back-to-back league meetings against the Cottagers for the first time since December 2003 – in their last Premier League campaign.
  • After winning their first ever Premier League game in Yorkshire (1-0 vs Leeds in April 2002), Fulham have lost their last seven top-flight trips to the county by an aggregate scoreline of 3-18.
  • Leeds’ defeat to Liverpool last week was their first ever Premier League loss on Matchday 1. They will be looking to avoid losing both of their first two matches in a top-flight campaign for the first time since 1980/81.
  • Fulham have lost 15 of their last 19 Premier League matches (W4).
  • Leeds United striker Patrick Bamford has scored in two of his last three Premier League appearances, dating back to 2017. He hadn’t scored in any of his first 25 games in the competition.

Player to Watch

Aleksandar Mitrovic

Mitrovic will hold the key for Fulham (Photo courtesy: AP/Getty)

Mitrovic will hold the key for Fulham (Photo courtesy: AP/Getty)

The Serbian powerhouse was the driving force behind Fulham’s push for promotion last season. Mitrovic finished the 2019/20 season with 26 goals in 40 outings in the Championship, ending up as the top scorer in the division.

In the season opener against Arsenal, Fulham missed his presence sorely and only after he came on as a substitute did they look like causing some problems. Back to full fitness, the 26-year-old started and scored against Ipwsich in midweek. And manager Parker will be looking up to his ace striker to deliver the goods against Leeds this weekend.

Prediction

Leeds United 2-0 Fulham

Both teams will be itching to open their accounts in the Premier League campaign on Saturday. However, Fulham looked hardly convincing in their opener against Arsenal, whereas Leeds almost caused a huge upset against champions Liverpool.

Given the Whites’ performance in the league last time out, coupled with the return of Liam Cooper to bolster the backline and the fact that they comprehensively defeated the Cottagers in their last meeting, The Hard Tackle is predicting a 2-0 win for Marcelo Bielsa & co. this weekend.

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