Leeds United begin their Premier League campaign with a clash against Wolves, with both sides seeking a winning start.
Leeds United have done some decent business in the market, which was considered essential for their long-term growth and sustainability in the Premier League. Having seen star names like Raphinha and Kalvin Phillips leave, the funds generated from their transfers has allowed Jesse Marsch to build a team as per his specifications.
It’s not to say Marsch exudes total confidence among the Leeds fanbase, who have had mixed feelings about the American. After a few disastrous results in the relegation run-in, the Elland Road outfit somehow managed to get to safety on the final day of the season.
With the new faces adapting decently so far, Leeds will be happy with their pre-season performances. They won three of their five friendlies, with the latest one a 6-2 triumph over Cagliari last weekend. Marsch will be aiming to keep the momentum going into the opening weekend of the Premier League and hope for a decent start from his side.
Meanwhile, Wolves will be looking for inspiration after their dire run of form in the latter part of last season. Bruno Lage has plenty of work to do to ensure that his team put an their winless run. The Midlands outfit failed to win any of their last seven league games last term, which pushed them to a 10th-placed finish.
What was baffling was the sudden drop-off in performances from Lage’s men. At one stage during the season, they were considered as contenders for an improbable top-four finish, and Lage will be disappointed after not even landing a Conference League spot. For Wolves, pre-season has been a decent exercise, although their overall form could be described as mixed.
Team News & Tactics
Jesse Marsch ensured his starting eleven against Cagliari played the full 90 minutes, which could be an indication of his opening day lineup. Barring any late fitness issue, the same team could take the pitch against Wolves.
💬 𝗝𝗲𝘀𝘀𝗲 𝗼𝗻 𝗽𝗿𝗲-𝘀𝗲𝗮𝘀𝗼𝗻: "We've made incredible progress in the last six weeks. We’re going to see a better version of what I would like us to be on matchday." pic.twitter.com/DMf8vmLR6m
— Leeds United (@LUFC) August 4, 2022
Marsch still has many players out injured, with at least six first-teamers, including summer signing Luis Sinisterra unavailable. Most of those unavailable stars are expected to be back in full training in the short term, with only Stuart Dallas likely to miss a major part of the campaign.
Meanwhile, Daniel James will be serving the final game of his three-match suspension and hence will be unavailable for selection for the Wolves clash. Other than that, the starting lineup looks quite straightforward from Marsch’s perspective.
Illan Meslier will be the starting goalkeeper, while the defence may look a bit unconventional. Pascal Struijk could slot in at left-back, with Robin Kock and Diego Llorente taking the central defensive positions. New arrival Rasmus Kristensen will make his competitive debut at right-back.
New midfield signings Marc Roca and Tyler Adams are expected to debut against Wolves. Jack Harrison will start from the right with Brenden Aaronson on the left side of the attack. Rodrigo will slot in as the attacking midfielder behind star striker Patrick Bamford who is fit to start.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Meslier, Kristensen, Llorente, Koch, Struijk; Roca, Adams; Harrison, Rodrigo, Aaronson; Bamford
Bruno Lage may have indicated during pre-season he might look to switch to a back-four, although he could stick to a three-man defence against Leeds for the season opener. There could be a start for Morgan Gibbs-White, who is at the centre of transfer speculation linking him to Nottingham Forest.
Bruno talks systems, pre-season, his squad and @WolvesAcademy.
— Wolves (@Wolves) August 4, 2022
In terms of injuries and absentees, Adama Traore and Toti are all big doubts for this clash. Nelson Semedo, Chiquinho and Raul Jimenez are certainly out of action, with the latter facing a lengthy spell on the sidelines.
Wolves’ summer arrival Nathan Collins will feature from the start, probably on the right side of the back three. Conor Coady and Max Kilman are the other defenders likely to feature, even though the former is being linked with a move to Everton. Meanwhile, there is also positive news regarding goalkeeper Jose Sa, who has recovered from a recent injury and is likely to start against Leeds.
Jonny and Rayan Ait-Nouri are the preferred choices at wing-backs, with the former coming in place of Semedo. Leander Dendoncker and Ruben Neves are likely to hold the fort in midfield, while Gibbs-White plays in an advanced role to add a spark to the attack.
Pedro Neto is fit and is likely to start in a front two, although the identity of his partner in the attack is somewhat unknown. Lage could replace Daniel Podence with Hwang Hee-Chan in the absence of Jimenez.
Probable Lineup (3-4-1-2): Jose Sa; Collins, Coady, Kilman; Jonny, Dendoncker, Neves, Ait-Nouri; Gibbs-White; Hwang, Neto
- Leeds United and Wolves will face each other on the opening weekend only for the second time in history.
- Leeds United have lost their opening day fixtures in each of the last two seasons.
- Wolves have lost their opening day fixture only on one occasion in the last six seasons.
- Wolves are unbeaten during their last four away trips to Elland Road.
- Wolves are winless in their last seven games in the Premier League.
Player to Watch
The Leeds frontman endured a difficult season last time out due to long spells out with injury. It was a shame considering how strongly he had finished the 2020/21 season, and the Whites severely missed the striker’s presence as they struggled last term.
However, the striker has regained fitness in time for the new season and will be a key man for Jesse Marsch’s side. At times, a player may take a while to come back to proper match sharpness, but Bamford will have to start firing as soon as possible, because he could be the difference-maker in this Leeds side, especially in games like the Wolves clash.
Leeds United 1-1 Wolves
There’s no way either team gets ahead of the other because such is their quality and setup. Leeds have shown they can attack the ball very well under Marsch, but the adaptation for some of the new players might take time, meaning it will be a few games later that fans may get to see the sharpest version of this team.
Meanwhile, Wolves do not have such a problem, but losing their top striker up front may cause issues. The Midlands side were not necessarily fluid in the final third last season and without the arrival of new attackers, that trend may continue. Expect a cagey 1-1 draw at Elland Road, as both teams look set to share the spoils.