Saturday 27th February 2021 17:30 | Elland Road
Marcelo Bielsa faces a midfield crisis as Leeds welcome Aston Villa for an early Saturday evening kick off at Elland Road. Jamie Shackleton missed Leeds midweek win against Southampton with an abdominal injury whilst Mateusz Klich was obviously in discomfort when being substituted half way through the second half of the Saints game with a hip injury sustained some weeks ago. The gaffer is already without the services of Ian Poveda, Rodrigo, Kalvin Phillips and Adam Forshaw in the middle of the park. Fortuately Klich is fit enough to make the starting eleven in midfield alongside Tyler Roberts. We may see a switch of wings for Raphinha as Helder Costa comes into the side after an impressive cameo against Southampton in place of the out of form Jack Harrison.
Leeds are boosted by the return of Diego Llorente. The Spanish International played the full 90 minutes of the Saints game. Llorente has experience with his previous club, both as centre back and defensive midfield. This will please Bielsa, who has been unable to fill Kalvin Phillips shoes during his absence. Leeds will be hoping they can repeat the reverse fixture having destroyed Dean Smiths team back in late October courtesy of a Bamford hat trick.
The visitors will be without their talisman Grealish who has a shin injury. The skipper missed Sunday's 2-1 defeat to Leicester and while boss Dean Smith hopes he could be available for Tuesday's game against Sheffield United, there is no exact timeframe for the midfielder's return. Defender Bjorn Engels has recovered from a back spasm and could be among the substitutes. Right-back Matty Cash is expected to be out for at least another two weeks with a hamstring injury. Defender Kortney Hause (foot) and forward Wesley (knee) remain on the sidelines although both are close to a return.
Aston Villa are two places and one point (8th v 10th) ahead of the Whites in the Premiership table with the Birmingham club also having an eleven goal difference swing on Leeds, even though Bielsa's side has scored 6 more goals this season than Villa. Leeds won the reverse fixture 3-0 and can do the league double over Aston Villa for the first time since 1975-76. Villa have only won two of their past 17 away league games against Leeds, with those victories coming in January and December 2000. Leeds can win three Premier League home games in a row for the first time since a run of five from April to August 2001. They have kept successive clean sheets at Elland Road. There has not been a draw in any of their past 16 league fixtures: Leeds have won eight and lost eight.
Aston Villa have won just one of their past six away league matches, in contrast to five victories in their opening six trips this season. It's five defeats in nine Premier League games for Dean Smith's side in 2021 (W3, D1). All but one of their 11 league victories this season has been earned with a clean sheet, but Villa have lost nine of the 11 matches in which they've conceded. Villa have kept a league-high seven away clean sheets, one shy of equalling their club top-flight record. They are attempting to win away against all three promoted teams in a top-flight season for the first time since 1980-81. Since Villa returned to the top flight in 2019, they have lost 2-1 in all three Premier League fixtures without Jack Grealish.
Leeds Starting XI
Meslier, Ayling, Struijk, Cooper, Llorente, Dallas, Klich, Costa, Roberts, Raphinha, Bamford
Subs: Casilla, Cresswell, Davis, Alioski, Jenkins, Huggins, Harrison, Hernandez, Gelhardt
Then there's Jack (with his silly short socks) screaming to the ref "my kit is dirty because someone blew on me ref"
Oh & the rest of his teammates falling over/feigning injury/wasting time at any given moment.
Hope we batter them
Having a great season generally and look a far more solid and well organised outfit than last season.
Luiz is every bit as important to them as KP is to us and does a great job in that holding role.
Traore while not Raph level has shown talent and flair, offers them something a bit different to try hards like Trezeguet and El Ghazi.
Watkins works his butt off and has pace and decent movement, will give us problems if given service im sure.
Mings, Konsa, Targett and Cash with Martinez have been a very solid back 5 (Martinez has won them plenty of points).
All that being said they are in uncharted territory a bit imo.
All season they have had a very consistent lineup (10 of there players have played in 21 or more of there 23 games) Comparatively we have 7 who have only missed 2 or less games.
To highlight that KP has missed the same amount of games alone as Grealish, McGinn, Mings, Traore and Luiz have combined.
Villa have had the benefit of a settled side most of the season.
But they now are without Cash and Grealish and they look all the weaker for it offensively imo.
Watched them against Leicester, still defensively ok (although Leicester scored 2 and then took the foot of the gas a bit) but offensively very little.
Villa dont seem to have progressed beyond "pass it to Jack" when attacking. Without him and without Cash marauding forward they looked lost.
So while we shouldn't take them lightly we have already comfortably beaten them without KP once already and Villa are still practically offensively and creativity a one man team as they have been for years
We are both weakened atm us more so in terms of numbers but we seem better equipped to cope as the season as a whole has shown.
Wont be easy to break them down however as they still have defensive solidarity, but I'm sure Raph can find a way.
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'I am quite clear in my mind that one has to feel sincere love for those he leads, and if he doesn't feel it naturally, then he must learn how to feel it' Marcelo Bielsa
'Would he kill his granny to win a match?' Bobby Collins
Bielsa said Grealish, 25, is "a great player who can unbalance you".
However, he added that the presence of talented players such as Grealish in an opposing side can act as a "stimulus".
Bielsa added: "I always prefer that opponents have their best players available because even if that fortifies a team and makes them more scary to face, it's also a stimulus for us to face such players and to try to neutralise them."
I thought Girlish was out injured, would be great to see him slipping on our new pitch, going down faster than a fat bitch on a slide !
As for the rest of them , they are just cheats like JT
I am nore sure if it's an advantage to have him playing on this pitch, we can easily get a red card the way he dives around, so he will surely go for that.
Losing Grealish though is a massive blow to them and loads it in our favour. We finally overcame the ' 5 losses without Phillips' jinx last time.
Shacks probably out
Klich maybe out (very worried about Klich, wrong side of 30 and starting to struggle with hip issues).
We are literally going to have no midfield.
Roberts and Dallas probably.
So invite Villa on, win it back, then bypass the midfield and go over the top down the sides similar to we did with Southampton 2nd half?
Agree we need to be more direct & make use of the pace we have down the flanks.
I did think Dallas & Roberts did well in the central of our midfield v the Saints, Pablo also steadied us with more composure on the ball.