Chelsea will be aiming to continue their unbeaten start to life under Thomas Tuchel when they face Leeds United at Elland Road on Saturday.
The latter stages of the Premier League season are fast approaching and this weekend, Gameweek 28 of the 2020/21 campaign will be played. The latest round of fixtures begins on Friday this time around and on Saturday, the lunch-time kick-off will be played at Elland Road, where Leeds United will play hosts to Chelsea.
Leeds United have blown hot and cold all through the season and while they have promised a lot, their profligacy in the final third combined with defensive susceptibility has left them 11th on the Premier League table. While a swift return to the Championship appears to be out of question, the Whites will hope for a top half finish going into the critical juncture of the season.
Chelsea, on the other hand, have recovered well from their debacles under Frank Lampard in the first half of the season. Under the tutelage of Thomas Tuchel, the Blues have now gone 11 games without defeat, with their ever-improving defensive output playing a key role in this early success. The latest positive result came in the form of a 2-0 win over Everton on Monday.
The reverse fixture, played at Stamford Bridge back in December, saw Chelsea come from a goal down to beat Leeds United 3-1. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter.
Team News & Tactics
— Leeds United (@LUFC) March 11, 2021
Marcelo Bielsa has been handed a boost on the team news front ahead of the visit of Chelsea. On Saturday, the Leeds United manager will only be bereft of the services of three first-team players, with a couple of others set to be at his disposal.
Among the aforementioned duo, Jamie Shackleton is a certainty to be a part of the matchday squad following his recovery from a muscle injury. In addition, Robin Koch has recovered from a knee injury, but will first feature for Leeds’ under-23 side before returning to Bielsa’s team.
The likes of Pascal Strujik (knock), Adam Forshaw (hip) and Pablo Hernandez (muscle injury) remain on the sidelines, although the Leeds boss has enough resources available to him to cover for the trio’s absence. Illan Meslier is a certainty in goal for the hosts, who will be set up in the 4-1-4-1 formation against Chelsea on Saturday.
Luke Ayling and Ezgjan Alioski will be the two full-backs, both of whom will get the license to charge forward at every given opportunity. At the heart of the Leeds defence, Liam Cooper will have Diego Llorente for company, owing to the absence of Koch and Strujik.
The key man for Leeds will be Kalvin Phillips, who will aim to keep a lid on Chelsea’s offensive output while also looking to set a quick tempo when on the ball. The attacking moves will then be carried forward by Stuart Dallas and Mateusz Klich through the central areas, with Rodrigo Moreno being an option on the bench.
Jack Harrison and Raphinha, who has been linked with Manchester United and Liverpool lately, will be the runners in the final third, with the duo aiming to provide offensive support to former Chelsea striker Patrick Bamford, who will hope to get into scoring areas regularly.
Probable Lineup (4-1-4-1): Meslier; Ayling, Llorente, Cooper, Alioski; Phillips; Raphinha, Dallas, Klich, Harrison; Bamford
Unlike his counterpart in the Leeds United dugout, Thomas Tuchel has a fresh injury concern hampering his preparations ahead of the trip to Elland Road. On Saturday, the Chelse manager will have to make do without a couple of first-team players.
Tammy Abraham was already unavailable due an ankle injury that still requires some time to heal. The English international has been joined by Thiago Silva on the sidelines, with the veteran Brazilian defender suffering a relapse of the thigh injury he has recently recovered from. Neither player’s absence, though, is a major cause for concern.
In Silva’s stead, Andreas Christensen has been a revelation at the centre of Chelsea’s back three and the Dane will continue to play the sweeper role against Leeds. Alongside him, Antonio Rudiger and captain Cesar Azpilicueta are expected to line up in the three-man central defensive unit, with Edouard Mendy taking his place between the sticks.
Up ahead in midfield, N’Golo Kante should be recalled, after having been given a bit of a breather last time out against Everton. The Frenchman will have Mateo Kovacic for company in the middle of the park, with the duo looking to keep things tight in the middle of the park while allowing the wing-backs enough time to provide the forward thrust.
These aforementioned wing-backs will likely be Reece James and Ben Chilwell, both of whom will aim to send in dangerous deliveries from the flanks. With James and Chilwell hugging the byline, the two attacking midfielders – expected to be Timo Werner and Mason Mount – will take up central areas, with Kai Havertz once again reprising the false nine role following an impressive display versus Everton.
Probable Lineup (3-4-2-1): Mendy; Azpilicueta, Christensen, Rudiger; James, Kante, Kovacic, Chilwell; Mount, Werner; Havertz
1. Chelsea to win @ 1.70
1. Chelsea to WIN to NIL @ 3.00
- Chelsea can set a new club record of four consecutive wins against Leeds United in all competitions with a victory on Saturday. The Blues can win both league meetings in a season for the first time since 1989.
- Leeds have lost five of their last seven Premier League matches, including the last two without scoring. The Whites could lose three successive league fixtures for the first time since November 2017.
- Chelsea are unbeaten in their 11 matches in all competitions under Thomas Tuchel (W8 D3), conceding just two goals. The Blues have earned 21 points since Tuchel’s appointment, second only to Manchester City’s 30 during that period
- Leeds are are without a win in all six Premier League home matches against teams in the top half of the table.
- Leeds have conceded a league-high 29 goals in the first half of games – four more than Chelsea have conceded in total this season. The Whites have failed to score in the first half of any of their last five Premier League fixtures.
Player to Watch
In what has been a forgettable season for Timo Werner, the hits just keep on coming. The latest reports suggest that the German international could be set for a summer departure from Stamford Bridge, which could mean that Chelsea might be forced to enter the market for a striker once again this summer.
Having said that, in the here and now, Werner will hope to turn a new leaf while the chances are presented to him. At the same time, the 25-year-old will also be desperate to correct his poor away record in the Premier League, having netted just one goal in 14 outings on the road for Chelsea in the top-flight. It is make or break time for Werner and it will be interesting to see if he makes his opportunity count.
Leeds United 0-2 Chelsea
Chelsea have been on a roll under Thomas Tuchel and it is unlikely that their juggernaut will be halted anytime soon and especially this weekend. While Leeds United have impressed with their attacking verve, the goals have been hard to come by against disciplined defensive units.
On top of that, their all-out attacking approach often leaves gaping holes at the back, which should be exploited by the in-form Mason Mount and the rest of the Chelsea attack. In the end, this should be a fairly comfortable afternoon for the visitors, which is why The Hard Tackle predicts a 2-0 win for Thomas Tuchel & co.