Newcastle United and Leeds United will compete in what commonly is known as a ‘six-pointer’ clash on Sunday, 22nd January, at the Elland Road. Though both teams are separated by four places in the 2021/22 Premier League standings, it will be fair to say that they are united by a common ambition – to escape relegation come to the end of the season.
A phenomenon called the second season syndrome is very prevalent in English football – wherein a newly-promoted side often do well in their first season in top-flight, but things start taking a grim turn from the second season onwards.
This theory holds true for Leeds United. After getting promoted last season, Marcelo Bielsa’s team finished in ninth place in what was their first Premier League campaign since 2004. However, they have struggled to replicate their charm this time around.
Partly because of injuries to some of their most important players and partly due to their own imperfections, the Peacocks have not been particularly convincing this season. With 22 points from 20 matches, they are in fifteenth place in the league standings.
On the other hand, Newcastle United too had a fairly decent 2020/21 campaign, where they finished in the twelfth place, but are currently a member of the drop zone. The Magpies have accumulated only 12 points from their 20 outings and are occupying nineteenth place in the standings. The Newcastle loyalists are hoping that changes in both ownership and coaching setup will bring them joy, as the margin of error is consistently diminishing for them.
Let us have a look at the in-depth analysis of what to expect from this fixture:
LEEDS UNITED IN THE PREMIER LEAGUE SO FAR THIS SEASON
Leeds United had a challenging start to their 2021/22 Premier League campaign. They remained winless in their first six matches but won two of their next four matches by beating Watford and Norwich City.
It was followed by another decent run of five games, where the Whites lost only against Tottenham Hotspur, while accumulating six points from the remaining four matches. Three consecutive defeats against Chelsea, Manchester City and Arsenal pushed to the corridor of danger once again, but they have shown great character and dedication to bounce back with successive triumphs.
A Jack Harrison hat-trick helped Marcelo Bielsa’s team get the better of West Ham United in their last match by a 3-2 margin, while in the contest prior to that, they handed Burnley a 3-1 drubbing.
PREDICTED LINEUP AND TACTICS AGAINST NEWCASTLE UNITED
Marcelo Bielsa will have a difficult time naming a strong starting XI for this match, as nine of his players are unavailable to face the Magpies. Liam Cooper, Kalvin Phillips, Adam Forshaw and Junior Firpo are all out with thigh injuries, while Tyler Roberts and Jamie Shackleton are nursing calf issues.
Joe Gelhardt, Charlie Cresswell and Patrick Bamford are also among the absentees with injuries. Bielsa is expected to field a 4-1-4-1 formation with Daniel James leading the lines in Bamford’s absence.
Luke Ayling, Diego Llorente, Pascal Struijk and Stuart Dallas are expected to form the four-man backline, whilst the midfield is expected to be comprised of Raphinha, Rodrigo Moreno, Mateusz Klich and Jack Harrison. Robin Koch is expected to be the lone defensive midfielder.
Probable Playing XI (4-1-4-1): Illan Meslier; Luke Ayling, Diego Llorente, Pascal Struijk, Stuart Dallas; Robin Koch; Raphinha, Rodrigo Moreno, Mateusz Klich, Jack Harrison; Daniel James.
NEWCASTLE UNITED IN PREMIER LEAGUE SO FAR THIS SEASON
Hardly anything has gone in Newcastle United’s favour in this competition, as they are among the only two teams to have registered a solitary victory so far. The Magpies remained without a win for fourteen matches before grinding out a 1-0 victory over relegation competitor Burnley.
It was followed by a run of three consecutive defeats against Leicester City, Liverpool and Manchester City respectively, which again made Howe’s boys one of the prime contenders to take a dip at the end of the season. That being said, two successive 1-1 stalemates in their last couple of outings against Watford and Manchester United would have boosted their morale.
PREDICTED LINEUPS AND TACTICS AGAINST LEEDS UNITED
Eddie Howe’s list of absentees is not as long as Bielsa’s as Newcastle United will only miss four players in this clash. Isaac Hayden is out with a knee injury, whereas striker Callum Wilson is yet to recover from his calf injury.
Federico Fernandez is out with a thigh problem, while his defensive partner-in-crime. Ciaran Clark has returned a positive diagnosis for COVID-19. Howe is expected to opt for a conservative 4-5-1 formation for this match.
The backline is expected to be comprised of Kieran Trippier, Fabian Schar, Jamaal Lascelles and Paul Dummett, whilst Ryan Fraser, Sean Longstaff, Jonjo Shelvey, Joelinton and Allan Saint-Maximin are likely to be deployed ahead of them. In Wilson’s absence, new signing Chris Wood is expected to be the focal point of Newcastle United’s attacks.
Probable Playing XI (4-5-1): Martin Dubravka; Kieran Trippier, Fabian Schar, Jamaal Lascelles, Paul Dummett; Ryan Fraser, Sean Longstaff, Jonjo Shelvey, Joelinton, Allan Saint-Maximin; Chris Wood.
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