The final Premier League match week before the second international break of the season is underway, and all teams will be looking to enter the break with a good result and some momentum. A team that could use some momentum and good results are Leeds United who plays host to Watford at Elland Road come the weekend.
Leeds United have been dismal so far, a far cry from last season’s team. With 6 games played, the Peacocks are without a win so far, with 3 draws and 3 losses. This poor form has seen the club drop down to 18th position and into the relegation zone. Leeds have never failed to win in the first 7 league games of the season in their previous 94 campaigns, and it is a record that manager Marcelo Bielsa will be desperate to maintain. Facing Watford at home presents the Argentine with the perfect opportunity to get a win on board, and put a smile on the faces of the passionate crowd that throng to Elland Road to sing their hearts out and cheer the players on. Leeds United were last in action against West Ham United when an injury-time winner by Michail Antonio broke the Leeds’ hearts and sentenced them to their third defeat of the season. Bielsa will be hoping for a similar start from his team, but a much better second half on Saturday.
Watford have had a decent start to the campaign, and are settling in nicely back into the Premier League. They have had a fairly better start than Leeds, with a couple of wins and a draw in six games so far. They were held to a 1-1 draw at home by a resilient Newcastle United who controlled the game in the first half but were on the back-foot for much of the second half. Manager Xisco Munoz made a few tweaks to his side at half-time after going down to a striker by Sean Longstaff, and his changes paid dividends as Watford came back to equalize through Ismaila Sarr. They saw a late winner by Josh King chalked off by VAR for offside, but the manager and the fans will take hope from the second-half performance by the Hornets. Watford will be hoping to take advantage of a weakened and out-of-form Leeds United side to take home three points heading into the second international break.
WHEN AND WHERE:
Venue: Elland Road, Leeds
Date: Saturday, 2nd October 2021
Time: 3.00 pm BST
Referee: Simon Hooper.
Assistants: Darren Cann, Derek Eaton.
Fourth official: Michael Salisbury.
VAR: Lee Mason.
Assistant VAR: Gary Beswick.
Leeds United will be without a few key players for the game against Watford. Diego Llorente has been sidelined with a muscular injury and it is unlikely he will be in contention to start against Watford. Patrick Bamford has missed the last three games through injury, including the Carabao Cup win against Fulham, and looks set to be out of action till after the international break. Right-back Luke Ayling also suffered an injury in the same game as Bamford and the Watford game could come too early for the Englishman. However, defender Pascal Struijk who was sent off against Liverpool will return to the squad after serving his three-game ban.
Midfielder Robin Koch suffered from a pelvic injury and is set to be sidelined for a while along with fellow midfielder Adam Forshaw. But there is some good news for Leeds fans and Bielsa with Diego Llorente set to return to the squad on Saturday, although it remains to see if he’s fit enough to start the game.
Watford have fared much better on the injury front, with only Peter Etebo on the treatment table for the visitors. There are no other absentees for the Hornets, and Xisco has a host of options to choose from for his starting eleven on Saturday. Josh King could start up-front for Watford again. Midfield Tom Cleverley has been declared fit and is in contention to start on Saturday.
The Welsh wizard is still finding his feet in a new team, after securing a move to Yorkshire from Manchester United on deadline day this summer. Marcelo Bielsa is a fan of the player and tried hard for over three years to bring the player to Elland Road.
James is one of the fastest players in the league, and his pace and skills are a great ability to have on the counter. He is a Bielsa player, with exceptional stamina and fitness levels. He is rarely injured, and gives the manager some great options in attack, with his ability to play on either flank as well as upfront. Given Leeds United’s injury issues right now, Bielsa may be tempted to play the Welshman upfront to fit all of Raphina, Jack Harrison, and James together. The speedy winger has not played as a striker regularly, but Bielsa who is known for his “crazy” decisions may take that option, with his star striker Patrick Bamford looking unlikely to be fit for the game.
Watford’s defense will be well aware of his terrifying speed and will be wary of letting him run behind their lines. There are only a few defenders who can catch up to James once the winger gets going up the field, and Leeds will be counting on make his pace advantage count.
The young Senegalese winger has been the Hornets’ shining light so far, with 4 goals in 6 games so far. He has continued his Championship form into the Premier League, which has brought delight to Watford fans. He is a fan favourite at Vicarage Road, and Sarr is repaying the belief and faith shown in him by the
The 23-year-old winger has wonderful dribbling skills and has the pace to beat his man easily. He has the most shots, has completed the most dribbles, and created the most chances out of anyone on the team, cementing his status as one of the most important players in the team. He has made the right-wing his own with his wonderful performances, which has helped the Hornets up to 12th in the league after 6 games. A brace against Norwich was followed by a poachers’ effort against Newcastle United to secure a hard-fought point for the Hornets last week.
He will be key to Xisco Munoz’s men and their performance, and he has shown his class since the beginning of the season. Sarr will be very crucial as he has made him their top scorer but also one of the chief creative outlets in the team. It will be interesting to watch the battle between him and Daniel James come Saturday.
LEEDS ATTACK TO BAIL OUT DEFENCE?
Leeds United have had a poor start to 21/22 Premier League season, a season where they were expected to continue their brilliant first season back in the top-flight of English football after 16 long years. They wowed the world with their unique style of play and attacking philosophy. However, it has not gone to plan so far. After last season’s strong performances, they were expected to challenge the European spots this season. But, after 6 games played, Leeds fans will be hoping for survival and anything after that will be seen as a bonus.
So far this season, Leeds United’s attack has been better than their defense. The defense has conceded in every game in the league. They have been unlucky with injuries to key players, with young and inexperienced players like Charlie Cresswell and Jamie Shackleton having to deputize for Ayling and Struijk, which has left them weak in defense. However, their attack on the other hand has scored in every game but one and has seemed in form, although it is far from sufficient.
With options like Tyler Roberts, Daniel James, Rodrigo, Patrick Bamford, Jack Harrison, and Raphina in attack, Marcelo Bielsa has no shortage of talented and strong attacking options. But, an issue seen at the start of the season was their shortage of depth in defense. A lack of defensive signings in the summer, coupled with a lack of quality and a few injuries has seen the Leeds defense at its weakest now. They have one of the worst defenses in the league as of now and are in dire need of upgrades.
Fans and Marcelo Bielsa will be hoping his attack can paper over the cracks in defense until his first-choice defenders return from injury and the January transfer window arrives. Leeds will be looking to take advantage of a Watford side that has a fairly weak defense and get a good start as they did against West Ham. It remains to see how the game pans out, but we could be set for a thrilling ride on Saturday.
LEEDS UNITED XI: Illan Meslier; Diego Llorente, Liam Cooper, Pascal Struijk, Junior Firpo; Kalvin Phillips; Daniel James, Stuart Dallas, Mateusz Klich, Raphinha; Rodrigo.
WATFORD XI: Ben Foster; Kiko Femenia, William Troost-Ekong, Craig Cathcart, Danny Rose; Ozan Tufan, Moussa Sissoko; Ismaila Sarr, Tom Cleverley, Emmanuel Dennis; Josh King.