Leeds United will look to extend their cushion over the bottom three when they host Brentford at Elland Road on Sunday afternoon.
Leeds have struggled to find consistency in the Premier League this season, winning three, drawing six, and losing five of their 14 matches for 15 points, putting them in 16th place in the standings. The Whites, though, managed to pick up a crucial three points on Tuesday night, as a last-gasp penalty kick from Raphinha gave them a 1-0 win over Crystal Palace at Elland Road.
Marcelo Bielsa’s men are yet to win consecutive league games this season, but they have only lost one of their previous six in the Premier League and will be keen for another positive outcome to build much-needed momentum before heading into a series of tough fixtures against Chelsea, Manchester City, Arsenal, and Liverpool.
Brentford will enter Sunday’s game on the back of a 2-0 setback at Tottenham on Thursday, their sixth loss of the 2021/22 Premier League campaign. The visitors have won four, drawn four and lost six of their 14 league games, totalling 16 points and sitting in 12th place – six points clear of the relegation zone. But with some tough fixtures ahead, getting back to winning ways is of paramount importance for Thoas Frank & co.
Leeds won 1-0 against Brentford the last times these two sides met during the 2019/20 Championship season and have never lost at home against the Bees since February 2015. Ahead of their latest meeting between two sides in Yorkshire, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both teams.
Team News & Tactics
🎙 Marcelo answers the media's questions ahead of Sunday's Brentford clash at Elland Road https://t.co/OKuqcTs4hG
— Leeds United (@LUFC) December 3, 2021
Patrick Bamford got vital 90 minutes under his belt for the U23s in the midweek. Marcelo Bielsa has revealed that both Patrick Bamford and Luke Ayling are expected to face Brentford after lengthy injury spells on the sidelines. Pascal Struijk suffered a recurrence of an ankle injury against Crystal Palace and is listed as doubtful for this game, while Robin Koch is likely to be the team’s other absentee for the Brentford clash.
Leeds boss Bielsa can stick to the 4-5-1 system extensively used in recent weeks; Jamie Shackleton and Junior Firpo are candidates to replace Struijk at left-back. Bamford could reclaim his starting spot up top, with Tyler Roberts relegated to the bench this weekend.
Mateusz Klich might be dropped from the starting lineup following a lacklustre performance against Palace, with Rodrigo vying for a starting place. Daniel James and Jack Harrison are competing for a starting spot on the wing for the home team. Illan Meslier is a guaranteed starter in goal for the Whites. The Frenchman is in excellent form at the moment and will be seeking a third clean sheet in a row this weekend.
Diego Llorente and skipper Liam Cooper should retain their place at the heart of the four-man backline. Luke Ayling should return in the right-back position. Firpo should start on the opposite wing and look to bombard the left flank to create opportunities going forward.
Kalvin Phillips remains a continued presence dictating the play from the holding midfield position for Leeds United. Rodrigo and Stuart Dallas could fill in the other central midfield slots. Dallas would need to be a workhorse defensively to allow Rodrigo to be more impactful in the forward areas.
The duo of Daniel James and Raphinha will aim to provide explosiveness and dynamism in wide areas, especially the Brazilian, whose creative impetus and attacking prowess has been immensely integral to Leeds’ bagging points despite subpar displays this campaign.
Probable Lineup (4-5-1): Meslier; Ayling, Llorente, Cooper, Firpo; Raphinha, Rodrigo, Phillips, Dallas, James; Bamford
Brentford boss Thomas Frank has no fresh injury concerns barring Mathias Jørgensen (Zanka), who will be assessed this week, although he is unlikely to be available ahead of the trip to Elland Road. However, the treatment room remains stacked with long-term injuries at Brentford, with Kristoffer Ajer, David Raya, Josh Dasilva and Julian Jeanvier all unavailable for selection this weekend.
The Bees head coach is likely to set his team up in his preferred vertical-style 3-5-2 formation with minor personnel changes to the starting XI that took to field in the 2-0 midweek defeat against Tottenham, with both Shandon Baptiste and Mathias Jensen potentially coming into the midfield as a double change.
💬 "I love that we are 𝙗𝙧𝙖𝙫𝙚, 𝙖𝙜𝙜𝙧𝙚𝙨𝙨𝙞𝙫𝙚, 𝙖𝙣𝙙 𝙛𝙤𝙧𝙬𝙖𝙧𝙙-𝙩𝙝𝙞𝙣𝙠𝙞𝙣𝙜. If we can have that approach over 38 games, 𝙬𝙚 𝙬𝙞𝙡𝙡 𝙗𝙚 𝙖𝙗𝙨𝙤𝙡𝙪𝙩𝙚𝙡𝙮 𝙛𝙞𝙣𝙚"
— Brentford FC (@BrentfordFC) December 3, 2021
Spanish shot-stopper Alvaro Fernandez could be in line for his sixth straight start between the sticks. Raya’s backup has shipped in eight goals in three away outings since replacing his injured compatriot but put in a superb display against Tottenham to keep the scoreline at a respectable 2-0. Frank could choose to go with a back three of Charlie Goode, Pontus Jansson and Ethan Pinnock as the defensive trio try to keep things solid at the back.
Up ahead in midfield, Christian Norgaard will sit at the base, anchoring the three-man unit from a deep-lying central midfield. He often tends to drop deep to make space and offer his creativity while Baptiste and Jensen use their vision and intense pressing to set the tone of the game and track the Whites’ midfield runners respectively.
The wing-backs, Sergi Canos and Rico Henry, play an important part in exploiting defences by floating around, with the duo’s quality deliveries from the flanks a major asset for the Bees. The strike-partnership of Ivan Toney and Bryan Mbeumo will continue to lead the line impressively with the high press but will be looking for a fruitful afternoon after feeding off scraps in a toothless display against Tottenham.
Probable Lineup (3-5-2): Fernandez; Goode, Jansson, Pinnock; Canos, Baptiste, Norgaard, Jensen, Henry; Toney, Mbeumo
- This will be the first top-flight meeting between the two clubs since 1947, so both will be looking for a positive showing.
- Leeds are undefeated in their last four Premier League games at Elland Road, defeating Watford and Palace while drawing with Wolverhampton Wanderers and Leicester City.
- The Whites’ have lost only one of their last 14 home league games against Brentford (W7 D6), a 1-0 defeat in the Championship in February 2015.
- Thomas Frank’s side have only lost two of their last seven away league games this campaign and have already defeated high-flying Wolves and West Ham along the way.
- The Bees have not shipped more than once in any of their 14 league games with Leeds in the 21st century (conceding 9 goals total), and the last time they did was in a 4-0 defeat in March 1954.
- Brentford are unbeaten in their past six away league games against Yorkshire clubs (W4 D2).
Player to Watch
The 24-year-old has been Leeds’ best player this season, as well as their most potent goal threat. The Brazilian has scored the opening goal in five of Leeds’ games this season and has pitched in with six Premier League goals so far this campaign, including three in his last four appearances. Raphinha will be critical to Leeds’ chances of bagging a win and he will be intent on continuing his goalscoring run while also creating chances for the returning Patrick Bamford on Sunday.
Leeds United 1-1 Brentford
Leeds were fortunate to avoid playing a second goalless draw in a succession courtesy of Raphinha’s injury-time winner against Crystal Palace. The Bees suffered a 2-0 setback against Tottenham on Thursday, their fifth defeat in their previous seven league games. While it is not yet the time to push the panic button, if fortunes does not turn quick enough, they are in danger of being dragged into a relegation scrap heading into the festive period.
Leeds have the league’s joint-third worst scoring record, having netted only 13 goals, seven from seven games at home. They have also conceded nine goals at home but have only given up two in their last four games, maintaining two clean sheets. Neither club has been very effective in front of goal in recent games; thus, a low-scoring stalemate is the most likely result. Hence, The Hard Tackle predicts a scruffy 1-1 share of spoils at Elland Road.