Chelsea have been in excellent form of late, with Frank Lampard’s team emerging as an outside challenger for the league title. This weekend, the Blues’ manager will be reigniting his rivalry with Marcelo Bielsa, as they host Leeds United. The pair were involved in the infamous ‘Spygate’ incident during Lampard’s time in charge of Derby County. During that Championship season, Leeds managed to win both of the league matches, but Lampard had the final laugh, as he knocked them out of the play-offs. Both managers will remember what has happened in the past and that will add an extra dimension to the fixture.
There has been criticism of Lampard at times during his tenure at Stamford Bridge. However, there has been a noticeable improvement in recent months. The summer spending has added pressure and expectation, but he has managed to integrate the majority of the arrivals. Hakim Ziyech, Thiago Silva, Ben Chilwell and Edouard Mendy have been huge successes so far. Meanwhile, Kai Havertz and Timo Werner are improving all the time. A title challenge may be beyond them this season, but they are certainly moving in the right direction.
Leeds United have been excellent so far this season, with their brand of football causing a lot of issues for Premier League teams. They can be inconsistent, as heavy defeats to Crystal Palace and Leicester City show. That said, they have been very good in matches against the traditional top-six. Bielsa will believe that they have been unfortunate not to take more points from the matches against Liverpool, Manchester City and Arsenal. Despite Chelsea’s recent improvement, they remain vulnerable in transition and this is where Leeds are at their best. This could be a very good match-up for the newly-promoted side.
Edouard Mendy has kept five clean sheets from six Premier League matches. He is currently leading the race for the golden glove, despite his fewer appearances in the competition.
Leeds United are averaging 15.3 shots per game, which ranks them third in the division. This is an incredible achievement for a promoted side.
It is hoped that Timo Werner will emerge as one of the best players in the division as the season progresses. There have been encouraging signs, but there is definitely more to come. In his first ten matches in the competition, he has registered four goals and two assists. There have been opportunities for him to get more, but he is still adapting to the league. Before the international break, it looked like he was finding his stride. Since, he has failed to score in four matches for the Blues, albeit he was unfortunate not to find the back of the net against Newcastle. This should be a fixture that suits the explosive striker, as Leeds United man mark and leave plenty of space in behind. The movement and finishing prowess possessed by the 24-year-old should cause a lot of problems for the visitors.
The Brazilian was brought in to add some quality and top-flight experience to the attack. Like the majority of new signings, he has been eased into the team by Bielsa. Against Everton, he was a constant threat and managed to score an excellent winning goal from range. It will give him confidence that he can play a big role for Leeds this season. During the match, he has four shots on goal and was regularly taking up good positions in the final third. Further to this, he worked hard and played at the tempo required under Bielsa, completing three tackles. There have been concerns about the quality in the squad, but the club made additions like Raphinha to increase that level. Based on his performance last weekend, he looks determined to have success in England and he will see this fixture as a chance to show his quality against top opposition. Chelsea have improved at the back, but there is still a belief that they can struggle in transition. Raphinha could prove to be a real threat.
Chelsea have a fully fit squad to choose from and that will allow them to rotate over the upcoming busy period. Olivier Giroud will be pushing for a Premier League start after scoring four goals in the Champions League. Kai Havertz and Christian Pulisic could be in the reckoning to start.
Jack Harrison is a doubt with a leg injury. Jamie Shackleton and Pablo Hernandez are unlikely to be back to feature.
This is going to be a tricky test for Chelsea, as Leeds play at such a high intensity and they have had previous success against top six teams. They will go at Chelsea in a fashion that will be new and it will be interesting to see if the Blues can manage the game. They will be boosted by having some fans back in the ground and that could play a part. Lampard’s history with Bielsa could also have an impact. I’ll tip the visitors to get something from the game.
Chelsea 1-1 Leeds United