Leeds United’s Premier League resumption after the World Cup kicks off when they host Manchester City at Elland Road on Wednesday evening.
Pep Guardiola’s men will be looking to close the gap on league leaders Arsenal back down to to five points whilst Leeds United on the other hand, will be aiming to prop up the league table, having entered the break on 15 points in 15th place.
The Whites endured an eventful few games before the break. Crysencio Summerville’s dramatic winners over Liverpool and Bournemouth gave Jesse Marsch’s men huge confidence and much needed six points from six before tasting a heartbreaking 4-3 defeat to Tottenham Hotspur, despite a stunning showing in North London.
The result left Leeds languishing outside the relegation places, just two points ahead of Nottingham Forest in 18th place. Results not going their way this week could see the Whites fall back into trouble before kicking off with City on their own turf.
However, they can head into this extremely difficult encounter with some satisfaction with their preparations for the restart, with two wins from their three friendlies, beating Elche and Real Sociedad before losing 4-2 to Monaco. While finding the back of the net in seven of their last eight competitive and non-competitive games is cause for some optimism, failing to keep a single clean sheet in 11 successive games is not.
Guardiola will certainly be reading those statistics with some joy, especially considering the Whites have only tasted five wins in 2022 on home turf. Not since beating Arsenal in 1999 have they managed to get the better of the reigning English champions at Elland Road, and Marsch will be dreading the sight of his former striking protégé from his Red Bull Salzburg days in Norwegian goal-scoring machine Erling Haaland.
The sensation born in Leeds will now be aiming to make his name back in his hometown and against the team, his father proudly wore the colours of. Haaland will have been gutted not to be amongst the elite, playing at the World Cup and he’ll be hungry to stake his claim alongside Kylian Mbappe again, as the campaign resumes. 18 Premier League goals from 13 outings is indeed a remarkable return, and the Norwegian has shone no signs of slowing down.
It took the Scandinavian all of 10 minutes to register his customary goal in Man City’s EFL Cup fourth-round fixture with Liverpool last week, where further goals from Riyad Mahrez and Nathan Ake cancelled out strikes from Fabio Carvalho and Mohamed Salah to see Guardiola’s side advance to the last eight after an enthralling 3-2 win at the Etihad Stadium.
The Citizens could yet add another EFL trophy to their growing list of achievements under Guardiola, but a Premier League treble will be high on the agenda, although it seems a difficult task right now, with Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal side upsetting the natural order of things, and the City will need to claw back a eight-point lead after the Gunners’ Boxing Day triumph over West Ham United at the Emirates.
It was a Ivan Toney double before the World Cup which succumbed City to their disappointing positioning currently and Guardiola and his men will be hungry and desperate to return to winning ways against a side they registered a whopping 11 goals against last campaign, winning 7-0 at the Etihad and 4-0 at Elland Road in April. The omens are in Haaland and co’s favour.
WHERE & WHEN?
Venue: Elland Road.
Date: Wednesday, 28th December 2022.
Time: 19:45 PM.
Referee: Stuart Attwell.
Assistant referee: Harry Lennard, Darren Cann.
Fourth official: Michael Salisbury.
VAR: Jarred Gillet.
Assistant VAR: Marc Perry.
Leeds United will be without the suspended Tyler Adams for the game against City, which comes as a huge blow for Marsch considering the American’s importance to the system at Elland Road.
Stuart Dallas and Archie Gray are out with long-term injury, where as Luis Sinisterra will not make the cut for the game either.
Illan Meslier is recovering from glandular fever and is doubtful to make it for the fixture alongside Patrick Bamford, Crysencio Summerville, Rodrigo, Liam Cooper, Jack Harrison, while Mateusz Klich is reportedly close to a move to Major League Soccer side DC United.
Kristoffer Klaesson is set to deputise in goal for Meslier, making just his second Premier League appearance.
For City, Guardiola intriguingly stated last week that Kalvin Phillips – who recently recovered from shoulder surgery – returned from the World Cup with England overweight and will not be considered for selection for the foreseeable.
Key centre-back Ruben Dias could also be out for up to a month after sustaining a hamstring injury in Portugal’s World Cup quarter-final defeat to Morocco, while four-goal and World Cup winner Julian Alvarez won’t be back until the new year following his success in Qatar alongside Lionel Messi.
If Leeds United are to steer clear of a relegation battle and shoot up the Premier League table, they really do need to shut up shop at the back. In their last six Premier League games, they’ve conceded 12 goals – exactly two goals a game. While their efforts in front of goal have remarkably improved, Marsch will need to find a formula that will allow his men to be defensively sound whilst posing more of a threat going forward.
The Whites will have had considerable time to work on their game during the World Cup break with only Tyler Adams, Rasmus Kristensen and Brendan Aaronson featuring at the tournament. However, Manchester City coming to town on Wednesday evening is certainly a baptism of fire for Marsch and his men as they look to go again after the restart. How they fare without the energy, aggression and dynamism of Adams against Kevin De Bruyne and co is another matter entirely, a huge blow for Marsch even before a ball has been kicked.
It could well be a Roca-Forshaw midfield pivot for Marsch, and the latter will certainly need to match the energy, leadership and aggression that Adams has brought to Elland Road in abundance since his summer move.
As stated previously, Manchester City registered 11 goals in their two victories over the Whites last term, a 7-0 demolition at the Etihad last year, and then a 4-0 win on Leeds’ turf in April. With Guardiola now possessing the finishing qualities of Erling Haaland, it could well be another City rout on Wednesday evening. Foden & Grealish could line up either side of the Norwegian after neither of England’s World Cup stars started the victory over Liverpool in the EFL Cup. De Bruyne is a cert in the City XI, alongside Rodri and Bernardo Silva, with the Portuguese playmaker also not featuring against Jurgen Klopp’s men.
Ruben Dias’ injury is a huge blow for Guardiola, but he already possesses telling centre-back quality with Manuel Akanji, Aymeric Laporte and John Stones, his options to choose from. Nathan Ake’s versatility is proving crucial also, adeptly playing at left-back against the Reds, but Joao Cancelo and Kyle Walker will be certain starters at Elland Road to make up Guardiola’s four-man backline.
Crysencio Summerville and Tyler Adams will both be huge misses for Jesse Marsch both defensively and offensively, especially after the former’s pre-World Cup goalscoring exploits. However, the Whites will be continuing to rely on their key man up front Rodrigo.
The Spaniard has proven a worthy replacement for the injury-plagued Patrick Bamford. Nine Premier League goals in 13 games is a sensational return.
He’s outperforming his xG (expected goals) return of 5.49, and crucially, only Erling Haaland is scoring more goals per 90 than Marsch’s main man. Only Haaland, Toney and Kane have scored more league goals than him too.
Not only are his goals proving pivotal to Leeds, but his workrate, experience and quality when they desperately need it in Bamford’s absence. If the Whites are to register a surprise triumph over Guardiola’s side on Wednesday, they’d need the former Valencia man to continue his stunning pre-World Cup form.
Returning to the homeland of your birth for a Premier League encounter will be the stuff of dreams for Haaland on Wednesday. Not only that, but he’ll be faring against his dad Alfie’s former side back in the 90s.
It is a clash the Norwegian goal machine will be relishing, especially considering the amount of weeks the striker has had without top level action during the break, while his age-mate and fellow footballing king Kylian Mbappe was breaking records in Qatar. That will only provide him with more ammunition to perform and do what he does best which isn’t great news for Leeds United.
18 goals in 13 Premier League games is an unreal return and you’d certainly bet your mortgage he’d add to that tally at the city where he was formed. It’s certainly in the footballing god’s script, right?
Leeds United’s predicted XI vs Manchester City: Klaesson (GK); Kristensen, Cooper, Koch, Struijk; Roca, Forshaw; Aaronson, Rodrigo, Harrison; Gelhardt.
Manchester City’s predicted XI vs Leeds United: Ederson (GK); Walker, Stones, Akanji, Cancelo; Gundogan, Rodri, De Bruyne; B. Silva, Haaland, Foden.