Leeds United will face Leicester City at Elland Road on Sunday afternoon, with both clubs struggling to make an impression in the 2021/22 Premier League season.

Leeds United made a terrible start to the season, failing to win any of their opening five games and getting themselves into the relegation mire. Some may attribute it as a second-season syndrome, but Marcelo Bielsa’s side had also been decimated with injuries to key players.

However, two wins in the previous five games have given them renewed optimism of remaining in the top division. They won their last game against a hapless Norwich City. But they are still a long way from where they had been last campaign.

Leicester, meanwhile, continued their inconsistent start to the season last week against Arsenal after going down to early strikes from Gabriel and Emile Smith Rowe has left them in a mediocre 11th place in the standings.

Their form has not been much better in Europe; their UEFA Europa League knockout hopes have taken a dent following a disappointing 1-1 draw against Spartak Moscow in midweek. Ahead of their vital encounter at Elland Road, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both sides.

Team News & Tactics

Leeds United

Marcelo Bielsa will have to again make do without his leading striker Patrick Bamford as he continues to recover from an ankle problem. Luke Ayling and Robin Koch will also be out for this weekend, although Junior Firpo should be able to make the squad.

The hosts are also sweating over the fitness of Jamie Shackleton after the 22-year-old came off injured against Norwich, and he faces a late fitness call over his involvement. Marcelo Bielsa will line up his squad in a unique 3-3-3-1 formation and could make a few alterations to his starting lineup for this encounter. Mateusz Klich may be given the nod in the engine room not to risk Shackleton.

Illan Meslier will start in goal for the Whites and will offer his excellent ball distribution. Guarding him in a three-man backline of Diego Llorente, Pascal Struijk, and Liam Cooper. The onus will be on them to keep things tidy at the back.

Stuart Dallas, Kalvin Phillips and Klich could form the Whites’ midfield. They will need to get hold of control in midfield if they are to get a result in this game. Kalvin Phillips will want to dictate the midfield with his incredible passing ability alongside screening the back-three. Klich and Dallas will be called upon to push upfront from midfield.

Rodrigo Moreno is very good at operating in the number ten position or just behind the striker, putting his usual energetic shift while creating chances for the front players. Daniel James will operate as the Whites’ left-sided wide winger, but he has to rediscover some form sooner rather than later. Raphinha will start on the right flank, with Jack Harrison again spearheading Bielsa’s frontline down the middle.

Probable Lineup (3-3-3-1):ย Meslier; Llorente, Cooper, Struijk; Klich, Phillips, Dallas; Raphinha, Rodrigo, James; Harrison

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Leicester City

Leicester City boss Brendan Rodgers has revealed that promising English full-back James Justin is close to a return after a serious knee injury, but Wesley Fofana (broken leg) and Marc Albrighton continue to recover from their respective long-term injuries. Jannik Vestergaard and Ricardo Pereira are also doubts for the game.

The Foxes’ boss also confirmed that James Maddison and Harvey Barnes are expected to be available on time for Leicester’s trip to Yorkshire after missing the 1-1 midweek Europa League draw against Spartak Moscow through sickness.

Rodgers can persist with the same 3-4-1-2 formation he deployed last week with several personnel changes in the starting XI. Kasper Schmeichel is a certain starter between the sticks for the Foxes. The Dane is to keep a clean sheet in any competition since the Premier League opener, but that is more down to the defence in front of him than him.

Rodgers will again rely on Jonny Evans to be the voice at the heart of the Leicester backline and command the defensive line alongside Caglar Soyuncu and Daniel Amartey, who looks to have displaced Vestergaard from the starting Lineup after getting consecutive starts.

Timothy Castagne will be a nailed-on starter at right wing-back while Luke Thomas slots in on the other flank as the left wing-back, both are relatively attacking-minded players, but up against the pace of Leeds wing-unit, they will have to be on guard defensively.

Boubakary Soumare could be handed a breather after continuously starting in the recent stretch of games, Wilfred Ndidi could be ready to start alongside Youri Tielemans in the double midfield pivot. James Maddison will provide the creative impetus to the final third, sitting just behind the two-man frontline of Kelechi Iheanacho and Jamie Vardy.

Probable Lineup (3-4-1-2):ย Schmeichel; Amartey, Evans, Soyuncu; Castagne, Tielemans, Ndidi, Thomas; Maddison; Iheanacho, Vardy

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Key Stats

  • The Whites will be vying for their second consecutive league success against Leicester for the first time since December 1999, following their 3-1 away victory at Leicester.
  • Leicester City have an excellent record against Leeds United, having won 13 of the 29 meetings between the two clubs, compared to their opponents’ nine wins.
  • Leicester City are one of just three teams in Premier League history to record four goals against Leeds United at Elland Road since Whites’ return to top-flight.
  • Leicester City has scored in each of their previous 12 Premier League games and is now on a goal-scoring spree (W5 D3 L4).
  • Leicester City talisman Jamie Vardy has netted in each one of his last five away trips to Yorkshire clubs, including goals against Huddersfield Town, Sheffield United, and Leeds United.

Player to Watch

Raphinha

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With Patrick Bamford injured and Daniel James and Jack Harrison ineffective in front of goal, the onus is on Raphinha to produce the goods and get Leeds out of the relegation muddle. The Brazilian provides a creative spark with his flair, trickery and seamless dribbling. His technical ball control was there for everybody to see in Leeds’ last game against Norwich, where he glided past a sea of yellow shirts effortlessly before smashing a powerful drive on the bottom-right corner.

He is producing some very elite numbers for a winger this season, 3.6 shots, 2 key passes, 2.9 dribbles and 4 goals from 9 games. And it is not like he is compromising the defensive responsibility; 1.4 tackles and 1.1 interception backs the fact that he is also a tenacious workhorse. His importance is vital for Leeds United if they want to steer clear of the relegation battle.

Prediction

Leeds United 1-3 Leicester City

Neither Leeds nor Leicester have been particularly impressive defensively this season, and the Foxes’ current bout of sickness has not aided their already-existing consistency woes. Leicester have now surrendered two goals in four of their last five Premier League games, while all five of Leicester’s away games in the top-flight this season have seen both teams score, so goals are in this tie.

With both sides playing free-flowing, flexible and attractive football, the encounter could prove to be a thriller. Rodgers will welcome back some of his star players into the playing XI this weekend. The Hard Tackle anticipate Leicester to react in a positive manner and heap further agony on Bielsa’s side with a convincing 3-1 victory at Elland Road.

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