Leeds United and Burnley will lock horns against each other this weekend in the Premier League in what a potential six-pointer in the relegation battle.
Leeds United and Burnley will be aiming to kickstart the new year on a winning note when they face off at Elland Road on Sunday afternoon as they look to pull away from the relegation zone.
After enjoying a fine return to the Premier League in 2020/21, Leeds are going through the cliched second season syndrome. The Whites have won just three games in the ongoing campaign, with only one of those coming in their previous eight matches. Marcelo Bielsa’s men suffered heavy defeats to Manchester City and Arsenal in their last two encounters, which has left them in 16th place, just five points clear of the drop zone.
Burnley, meanwhile, played their first game on Thursday against Manchester United after a two-week break due to Covid-related cancellations. The Clarets lost 3-1 at Old Trafford, making it six games without a win. As a result, they remain 18th in the standings, two points shy of 17th-placed Watford, with two games in hand. A win in these matches could pull Sean Dyche’s side out of the relegation zone.
The reverse fixture, played out at Turf Moor in August last year, ended in a 1-1 draw with Patrick Bamford cancelling out Chris Wood’s strike. Ahead of their latest meeting on Sunday, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both teams.
Team News & Tactics
Leeds United will be boosted by the return of Daniel James and Diego Llorente, while Junior Firpo is also back in contention after serving out his suspension. Jack Harrison is also available for selection, but Patrick Bamford remains a slight doubt and will be assessed close to the game. Meanwhile, Kalvin Phillips, Liam Cooper, Rodrigo, Charlie Cresswell, Pascal Struijk and Jamie Shackleton remain unavailable.
Marcelo Bielsa will set up in a 4-4-1-1 formation on Sunday, with Illan Meslier lining up between the sticks. The four-man defensive unit should comprise Luke Ayling, Llorente, Robin Koch and Firpo, who will have difficulty dealing with the physical Burnley forwards.
Adam Forshaw, who endured a forgettable outing against Arsenal last time out, will retain his spot in the side but needs to up his game on Sunday. He will have Stuart Dallas as his partner in the centre of the park, with the Northern Irishman tasked with providing attacking support by making driving runs forward.
The width in attack will come from the dynamic duo of Raphinha and Harrison. They will look to create opportunities for the two forwards in Tyler Roberts and Joe Gelhardt. Bamford, if fit, will likely get some minutes from the bench.
Probable Lineup (4-4-1-1): Meslier; Ayling, Llorente, Koch, Firpo; Raphinha, Dallas, Forshaw, Harrison; Roberts; Gelhardt
Sean Dyche will again be without Josh Brownhill for the game due to Covid-related issues, while Nick Pope and Jay Rodriguez also remain doubts for the contest. Ashley Barnes and Connor Roberts are also set to miss out, but Maxwel Cornet is close to a return and will be assessed on the day of the game. Kevin Long is back in contention after recovering from coronavirus.
Burnley will line up in their usual 4-4-2 setup against Leeds United, with Wayne Hennessey expected to continue in goal amid doubts over Pope’s involvement. There is no looking past James Tarkowski and Ben Mee at the heart of the defence for the Clarets while Matthew Lowton and former Leeds United ace Charlie Taylor line up as the full-backs.
With Brownhill unavailable, Jack Cork will pair up with Ashley Westwood in the middle of the park and look to thwart Leeds’ midfield runners. They will have support from Johann Berg Gudmundsson, who could shift in more centrally even though his starting position would be on the right flank.
Dwight McNeil is a certainty on the left flank and will be the primary outlet for Burnley when they look to hit Leeds on the break. He will look to aim crosses at ex-Leeds striker Chris Wood in the box. He should again have Aaron Lennon as his partner at the top after scoring against Manchester United. He will have a free role to drift around in the final third in search of openings. Cornet should get minutes from the bench.
Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Hennessey; Lowton, Tarkowski, Mee, Taylor; Berg Gudmundsson, Westwood, Cork, McNeil; Lennon, Wood
- Leeds United have won their first league game in just one of the last eight calendar years (D4 L3), beating Rotherham 3-0 in 2017. Meanwhile, Burnley have lost their opening match in the competition in four of the last five calendar years.
- Burnley have lost six of their previous eight away league games against Leeds (W1 D1), with their only victory at Elland Road in this run coming in September 2013 (2-1).
- Leeds have lost their last three Premier League games in a row, conceding 14 goals. They have not tasted four consecutive defeats in the top flight since a run of six between December 2003 and February 2004.
- Burnley are winless in ten Premier League away matches since a 2-0 victory at Fulham in May last year.
- Leeds have lost 12 of the 15 Premier League fixtures Kalvin Phillips has missed since getting promoted last season, compared to 11 defeats in 41 games when he has played.
Player to Watch
🇧🇷 Raphinha's 2021 stats for Leeds United 🇧🇷
📅 Games: 36
⚽ Goals: 12
🎯 Assists: 8
— James Marshment (@marshyleeds) December 28, 2021
With eight goals in 16 Premier League matches this season, Raphinha is the leading goalscorer for Leeds United. Despite the team crumbling due to persistent injury problems, the 24-year-old has maintained his form and will be key to the Whites’ prospects in the second half of the season.
The Brazilian, who continues to attract interest from clubs in England and across Europe, will pose a major threat to the Burnley backline with his pace and trickery. His ability to get into dangerous positions and sniff out goalscoring opportunities will be crucial against the Clarets’ defence that is known to be resolute.
Leeds United 2-1 Burnley
Leeds shipped in 14 goals in their last three games, and even though Burnley won’t carry the same level of threat as Manchester City or Arsenal, they still can breach the defence that has been very vulnerable. However, the availability of players like Daniel James, Jack Harrison and potentially even Patrick Bamford does give Marcelo Bielsa’s side a boost after their recent injury troubles.
Playing at Elland Road, backed by the vociferous home support, who are fully behind the team despite the recent results, Leeds should have enough to get over the line on Sunday afternoon. The Hard Tackle predicts the Whites to pick up a narrow win that will let them open up some gap over the relegation zone.