Leeds United will be hoping to improve their mixed run of results in recent weeks as they take on Wolves on Friday.
Leeds United’s hopes of getting into the top half of the league table suffered a huge upset last weekend when they fell to a 4-2 defeat at the hands of Arsenal. Yet, they have an opportunity to maintain the pressure on the north London giants as well as several other competitors including Tottenham Hotspur and Aston Villa, should they secure all three points against Wolves on Friday.
By far the most action-packed team in the league, it is going to a fascinating contest given the stark difference between the style these two teams operate with. Leeds, for one, rely heavily on their attacking game, with the newly-promoted giants also registering one of the best scoring records in the division. Their high-risk game also has its fault, with the Whites having conceded 42 goals this term.
Wolves, in contrast, are a team that generally looks to remain solid and give the opposition very little freedom. Their style of play was displayed brilliantly in the reverse fixture that saw them secure a narrow 1-0 victory despite the opposition dominating the possession as well as making more clear cut chances.
Marcelo Bielsa’s men, who forged an excellent comeback in the 4-2 defeat to Arsenal last weekend, are hoping to avoid such a scenario. They do have more attacking firepower than they did in the reverse fixture but face a Wolves side that is yet to lose in any of their last three Premier League fixtures.
Here, at The Hard Tackle, we will take a closer look at these two teams ahead of this mouthwatering fixture at the Molineux on Friday evening.
Tactics & Team News
🏥 Injury updates
🇲🇽 Raul's progress
🤝 Bielsa's philosophy
— Wolves (@Wolves) February 18, 2021
With Willy Boly out injured, the depleted Wolves defence is going to have a tough time dealing with one of the best attacks in the league. The onus is on the familiar three-man backline of Leander Dendoncker, Conor Coady and Romain Saiss to offer the protection for Rui Patricio in goal.
Wolves are likely to employ a very defensive approach, in an attempt to frustrate the Leeds United attackers. They do have a history of producing more quality in the second half, which makes the midfield duo of Ruben Neves and Joao Moutinho very important since they are in charge of overseeing any possession their team comes across.
The wing-backs in Nelson Semedo and Jonny should play a key role in Wolves’ second line of press. The West Midlands outfit could be in for a difficult game on the flanks, but it might also be an opportunity for them to rip the Leeds defence out on the counter since their full-backs do have a tendency to move forward.
The continued absence of Daniel Podence and Raul Jimenez would leave Nuno Espirito Santo with very little options in the final third. As such, new signing Willian Jose will continue to spearhead the frontline, with additional support from Pedro Neto and Adama Traore playing in a slightly wider role.
Probable Lineup (3-4-3): Patricio; Dendoncker, Coady, Saiss; Semedo, Neves, Moutinho, Jonny; Traore, Willian Jose, Neto
Marcelo Bielsa is once again expected to be without the services of Kalvin Phillips and Rodrigo Moreno. Their absence has created multiple tactical issues for the Argentine, who may have no option but to continue with Pascal Struijk in holding midfield.
Wolves vs Leeds United TEAM NEWS:
✅ Diego Llorente is back available for selection.
✅ Mateusz Klich will also be fit to play.
— BBC West Yorkshire Sport (@BBCWYS) February 18, 2021
Although the Dutchman has been in excellent form, he lacks the control, as well as the assurance in possession that Phillips provides in long supply. Hence, the Whites are going to require the services of the industrious Mateusz Klich in a slightly more advanced role this weekend while Stuart Dallas should also operate in the middle of the park.
In the defensive unit, Bielsa reverted to the old method of using Luke Ayling at centre-back, in the absence of Phillips and Robin Koch. The move came at the expense of much less solidity in the right-back position, with Jamie Shackleton simply not good enough defensively.
Fortunately for Bielsa, he can call upon new signing Diego Llorente, who has recovered from his injury. The Spaniard is hoping to finally kickstart his career at Elland Road following an unfortunate campaign marred by fitness issues. He should operate at centre-back alongside Liam Cooper, with Ayling back in his usual right-back role.
Elsewhere, Ezgjan Alioski should continue on the opposite flank while Illan Meslier is hoping to make amends in goal after one of his mistakes led to an Arsenal goal in the last game.
There should be no changes in the attacking third, however, as Leeds United look to continue with the tried and tested offensive trifecta of Raphinha, Jack Harrison and top scorer Patrick Bamford.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Meslier; Ayling, Llorente, Cooper, Alioski; Struijk, Dallas; Raphinha, Klich, Harrison; Bamford
- Wolves have won two of their last three Premier League games – as many as they had in their previous 14 matches in the competition.
- Ruben Neves has scored four goals in seven Premier League appearances in 2021 having failed to find the net in his 34 league games last year.
- Aside from three own goals by Chris Smalling, Tammy Abraham and Dan Burn, Wolves’ last 98 Premier League goals have been scored by non-English players.
- Eight of Leeds United top-scorer Patrick Bamford’s 12 Premier League goals this season have come away from home.
- Leeds have won two of their last three away league meetings against Wolves, more than they had in their previous 16 visits to Molineux – an indicator of how much the club has improved in recent years.
Player to Watch
Bielsa on Raphinha:
"He's quick and he can sustain that over a long distance.
"Raphinha is also a winger who can dribble and knows when to attack the space in behind.
— We All Talk Leeds (@WeAllTalkLeeds) February 18, 2021
Leeds United were yet to properly integrate Raphinha into the first-team when the Whites last faced Wolves. This time around, the Brazilian, who has now become one of the sensations of this Premier League campaign, could prove to be the difference-maker by bombarding the Wolves defence on the weekend.
With four goals and five assists in 18 matches, Raphinha has been indeed been a revelation at Elland Road. His pace, trickery and industrious movements out on the flanks could make life miserable for Jonny. In addition, the attacker has developed good communication with the likes of Bamford and Harrison – making him the x-factor for Leeds United heading into this game.
Wolves 2-4 Leeds United
Leeds United might not fall into Wolves’ defensive trap this time out, thanks to their improved offensive productivity in recent months. While they could face defensive problems, especially from set-pieces, the temerity of offensive players like Bamford, Harrison and Raphinha could make this game quite interesting to watch, from a neutral perspective.