Ryan Mason is eyeing a third successive victory in the Premier League as Tottenham Hotspur take on Leeds United on Saturday.
It is still too early to judge whether a reformation is on the cards for Tottenham Hotspur, but a change of managers has certainly been helpful, with Ryan Mason, assisted by Chris Powell, winning two of his three games so far – a record marred only by a disheartening Carabao Cup defeat to Manchester City.
Tottenham’s most recent victory came against Sheffield United, as they dismantled the Blades 4-0. The result has helped them get back into the top four contention, with the Lilywhites trailing fourth-placed Chelsea by only five points.
And with the Blues locking horns with Manchester City on Saturday, in what will be a rehearsal of the UEFA Champions League final, Mason’s men will have an excellent opportunity of bridging the gap just two points by the end of this weekend’s round of fixtures.
In Leeds United, though, they face a stern opponent, who have registered an excellent record against top English clubs. In fact, they could become the first team since West Ham in 2015/16 to remain unbeaten at home against the Top Six.
The Whites, though, are coming on the back of a disappointing 2-0 defeat to Brighton & Hove Albion and a win could be critical as they look to get back into the top half of the Premier League table.
Here, at The Hard Tackle, we will be taking a closer look at both these sides ahead of their crucial match-up at the Elland Road this weekend.
Team News & Tactics
📰 Kalvin and Raphinha are being evaluated ahead of Saturday, whilst Helder is out for the season
— Leeds United (@LUFC) May 6, 2021
Marcelo Bielsa sounded very unsure when asked about the involvement of two players in Kalvin Phillips and Raphinha during the pre-match press conference. While the Argentine confirmed that their fitness is being tracked, it appears unlikely either of them will manage to return to action this weekend.
Leeds United, though, will be boosted by the return of club captain Liam Cooper, following his three-match suspension. The Scotsman should replace Pascal Struijk, thus renewing his partnership with Diego Llorente at the heart of Leeds United’s four-man backline.
Elsewhere in defence, though, Bielsa needs to remain cautious regarding his use of full-backs. The likes of Luke Ayling and Ezgjan Alioski both typically like to make darting runs forward, with the latter particularly fond of overlapping runs in behind the backline. However, they are set to be utilised in a more defensive role, knowing Tottenham’s quality out wide.
Things get more interesting in midfield, where Pascal Struijk might just replace Robin Koch, as the preferred deputy for the injured Phillips. Bielsa has already showered praise on the Dutchman heading into the game, so he is likely to occupy the number six role, hoping to offer protection for the backline with his combative style of play.
The absence of Raphinha could leave Bielsa devoid of options out wide, especially with Helder Costa already ruled for the remainder of the campaign. The Argentine currently has two options, the most likely of which comes in the form of Ian Poveda. The former Man City attacker does have more dynamism and pace, thereby making him a better option than Tyler Roberts, who is set to continue alongside Stuart Dallas in the attacking midfield slots.
Elsewhere in the final third, the Leeds United offensive unit should be spearheaded by Patrick Bamford, with additional support from Jack Harrison and Poveda, as the Whites hope to put immense pressure on the Tottenham ball-carriers using their relentless first and second line of press.
Probable Lineup (4-1-4-1): Meslier; Ayling, Llorente, Cooper, Alioski; Struijk; Poveda, Roberts, Dallas, Harrison; Bamford
Ben Davies is the only player to remain on the sidelines in Tottenham’s trip to Elland Road. It serves as good news for Sergio Reguilon, who should retain his place in the team despite not being able to replicate his early-season performances.
In general, though, Mason is likely to make no defensive changes at all, as the likes of Serge Aurier, Toby Alderweireld and Eric Dier have all done quite well. Things, though, could get tricky, particularly in the build-up play, knowing Leeds United will come at them at full flow.
— Tottenham Hotspur (@SpursOfficial) May 6, 2021
This is where Mason might be tempted to recall Harry Winks, ahead of Giovani Lo Celso, Tanguy Ndombele and Moussa Sissoko. The Englishman does tend to drop deep and act as an auxiliary centre-back during the build-up.
It should give Dier, Aurier and Alderweireld the additional passing option, while Winks’ midfield partner Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg is another defensive-minded midfielder, who could help solidify Spurs’ second line of press.
Moving forward, Mason has three options to choose from in the number ten role, but it is Lucas Moura, who is likely to get the nod ahead of Dele Alli and Lo Celso. The Brazilian should occupy in central areas of the pitch, alongside Harry Kane, as the duo to pick out runners like Gareth Bale and Son Heung-Min, in behind the Leeds United backline this weekend.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Lloris; Aurier, Alderweireld, Dier, Reguilon; Winks, Hojbjerg; Bale, Lucas, Son; Kane
- Over 2.5 Match Goals @ 1.66
- After a run of six consecutive victories against Spurs in the Premier League between 1991 and 2001, Leeds United are winless in their last six against them in the competition (D1 L5), losing the last three in a row.
- Tottenham have won three consecutive league games against Leeds, their longest ever winning run against the Whites. They’re looking to pick up back to back league wins at Elland Road for the first time since October 1979.
- This is the first time Leeds United are hosting Tottenham in any competition since January 2013, when the Whites won an FA Cup tie 2-1 courtesy of goals from Luke Varney and Ross McCormack.
- Leeds United could become the first side to remain unbeaten at home in the Premier League against each of Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Spurs in a season since West Ham in 2015/16 and the third newly-promoted side to do so, after Ipswich Town in 2000/01 and Birmingham City in 2009/10.
- Leeds United have scored a league-high 24% of their Premier League goals this season from outside the box (12/50), with no side netting more from distance in total than the Whites coming into this weekend’s games (12, level with Leicester City).
Player to Watch
Gareth Bale has the lowest minutes per goal in the Premier League this season (72.44) pic.twitter.com/AZJrIY8JyD
— HotspurHive (@HotspurHive) May 2, 2021
Gareth Bale raised a lot of eyebrows last weekend with his performance against Sheffield United. He scored an exceptional hat-trick – his first in the Premier League since 2012 while he also impressed with his running, work ethic and a seemingly telepathic combination play with Son Heung-Min.
Such qualities could be useful for Tottenham Hotspur once again as they hope to get the better of the Leeds United defence this weekend. Bale’s ability to make darting runs in behind the backline, in particular, could be crucial knowing the Whites do like to control the game and generally play a high-risk offensive game.
It is also fair to point out that Bale will be starting on the right hand channel, where Bielsa’s men do have a slight weakness in the shape of Ezgjan Alioski, who is not a fully-fledged defender. Therefore, it could turn out to be another productive weekend for the Welshman.
Leeds United 2-2 Tottenham Hotspur
This has the making of a high-scoring affair as Leeds United typically like to play a high-risk offensive game. However, in recent weeks, they have had to change their gears a little bit and this weekend should be no exception. But the likely absence of both Kalvin Phillips and Raphinha could lead to a lack of control in the game, as far as the hosts are concerned.
Tottenham, on the other hand, do have a world-class attacking unit and will largely rely on quick counters. But, they lack the quality in the build-up play, which could see them struggle in dealing with Leeds’ high press. We are thus expecting these two sides to share the spoils this weekend.