These are two teams at opposite ends of the form table. Chelsea remain unbeaten under Thomas Tuchel and they have moved into the top four, albeit West Ham, Everton and Tottenham all have a game in hand over the Blues. Meanwhile, Leeds United have hit a rough patch of form and their season is threatening to fizzle out. Marcelo Bielsa will know that their first season back in the top flight has been a success, but he will be wanting his players to take some momentum into the 2021/22 campaign. Despite the positive coverage of the home side, they have yet to beat one of the traditional ‘top-six’ teams this season. That should serve as motivation for Saturday.
Leeds United are currently in 11th position, which is an incredible position for a newly-promoted club. Bielsa has proven that his style of coaching can be a success in the Premier League, despite relying largely on the players that got them up last season. With investment in the summer, they could quickly progress and establish themselves as a top ten Premier League team. Due to their attacking style, they can beat any team on their day. They have performed well against the top teams this season, but they are yet to get that headline-grabbing victory. They will believe that they can be the first team to beat Tuchel’s Chelsea.
It will be interesting to see how Chelsea approach this fixture. They are currently sitting in the top four, but they are far from comfortable and they will need to maintain their good form to ensure Champions League qualification next season. In the week, they have the second leg of their tie against Atletico Madrid in this season’s competition. Tuchel will want to prioritise that game, especially as they only have a narrow one goal lead. That could lead to players being rested at Elland Road and increase the chance of a surprise result.
- Leeds have conceded 21 times in seven matches against the traditional top six of Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham this season.
- Chelsea have kept nine clean sheets in the first 11 matches of the Thomas Tuchel era.
Leeds decided to show faith in many of the players that helped them gain promotion to the Premier League. However, they did add a sprinkling of quality with a few signings and the standout addition has been Raphinha. The former Rennes player was slowly introduced, but he is now the standout individual in the starting eleven. In attack, he is the player most likely to make something happen and the style of play gives him the freedom to express himself. The Brazilian has contributed five goals and five assists, with a goal involvement every 171.1 minutes. This is a very good return in his debut campaign in the Premier League with a promoted club. His underlying numbers suggest that he could have had a lot more, especially when it comes to assists. According to FB Ref (powered by Statsbomb), he is averaging 4.37 shot creating actions per ninety minutes, ranking him 8th of all Premier League players. Chelsea have been very reliable at the back since the appointment of Tuchel, but the relentless style of Leeds will pose a new test to them. In Raphinha, the home side have a player that can cause them a lot of problems.
It is difficult to predict the players that will start for Chelsea at the weekend, as Tuchel will have one eye on the Champions League round of 16 second leg. One certainty to start at Elland Road is Mason Mount, as he will be suspended for the match against Atletico Madrid following his yellow card in the first leg. The England international has been one of the big winners of the first few months of the Tuchel era. He wasn’t in the starting eleven for the German’s first match in charge, but he has emerged as a key player and he has been given more attacking license in one of the advanced midfield roles. Mount has scored three goals in the Premier League since the managerial change and he has been a constant threat in the final third. There will be space to exploit in the attacking half and Mount has the dynamism to do damage in these areas.
Jamie Shackleton and Robin Koch are both nearing a return to action. Pascal Struijk and Pablo Hernandez are both unlikely to feature. Rodrigo could be in line for a return to the starting eleven following his appearance as a sub against West Ham.
Tammy Abraham is a major doubt with an ankle injury. There is likely to be rotation, which could see Antonio Rudiger, Mason Mount and N’Golo Kante could all return to the starting eleven.
This is going to be a fascinating contest, as Leeds look to play on the front foot, while Chelsea like to control matches with possession. The visitors should start with a lot of their quick players, such as Callum Hudson-Odoi, Christian Pulisic and Timo Werner, as there will be plenty of opportunity to counter attack against Leeds. The home side should have enough to get on the scoresheet and prevent another Chelsea clean sheet, but the visitors should have the quality to come away with three points.
Leeds United 1-2 Chelsea