Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds United will gear up to face West Ham United once again on Sunday in the Premier League after losing to the Hammers in the FA Cup third round last week.
West Ham United would look to continue their good run in the season by closing the gap to Liverpool with a win as they slid into a Champions League spot with their win over Norwich City.
The Whites would be desperately trying to turn around their fortunes after hovering in the bottom half of the table for most of the season.
Here’s our preview of Sunday’s Premier League fixture between West Ham United and Leeds United.
WEST HAM UNITED
The Hammers wrapped up a third successive league victory as Jarrod Bowen scored twice against Norwich City on Wednesday. With 37 points from 21 fixtures, David Moyes’ men now have two points more than Arsenal, even though the Reds have a match in hand.
After a miserable December during which they lost to the likes of Arsenal and Southampton, the Hammers are having a perfect start to the year. Even their defences have improved in recent weeks, with two back-to-back clean sheets breaking an 11-match streak of conceding goals.
Jarrod Bowen’s performance has been critical for the Hammers in the last six games, with the 25-year-old scoring four goals and assisting three more in that span. That includes a goal against the Whites in the FA Cup fixture during extra time to give the Hammers a 2-0 victory.
Vladimir Coufal and Aaron Cresswell returned to the side with a bang on Wednesday, making regular interceptions to strengthen their defences. David Moyes is likely to continue with his 4-2-3-1 lineup once again against Leeds United, with Michael Antonio, Manuel Lanzini, and Jarrod Bowen leading the attack.
Marcelo Bielsa would like to keep the FA Cup exit behind him as he takes on the arduous job of bringing Leeds United back to the top half of the table. After an enthralling season last year, the Whites have managed to win just four games so far, including a 3-1 win against Burnley earlier this month.
The Whites have a slew of tough games ahead of them the following month and they would like to net all the available points in the games against West Ham and minnows Newcastle United this month. Despite their weak performance, the threat of relegation is negligible as Burnley, Newcastle, and Norwich are likely to languish at the bottom much longer.
Much of their hopes depend on signing new players during the transfer window, with Marcelo Bielsa setting his sights on James Maxwell and Seko Fofana. New additions are crucial to managing the workload at Elland Road as a slew of injuries and infections see much of the main squad sidelined during major fixtures.
As many as 10 players could miss the game on Sunday due to injuries, including Liam Cooper, Charlie Cresswell, Pascal Struijk, Kalvin Phillips, and Rodrigo. Diego Llorente remains suspended for the game.
In a piece of good news for the team, Patrick Bamford is likely to return from his injuries and his presence is set to bolster the attacking prospects of the team – which is something they were sorely lacking on Sunday.
Sam Greenwood was given an opportunity to lead the attack against West Ham last week, but he failed to spark on his full debut. Both Lewis Bate and Leo Hjelde also got their first-team debuts and they might see more game time this week.
HEAD TO HEAD
Of the 108 encounters between both sides, the Hammers emerged victorious in 31 matches across all competitions. The Whites hold the upper hand with 48 victories owing to their glorious past, while a further 29 fixtures have ended in a draw.
But Leeds United’s recent form against West Ham has been poor with four of the last five games across all competitions going the way of the Hammers.
West Ham won the reverse fixture at Elland Road 2-1 back in September, courtesy of second-half goals from Junior Firpo and Michail Antonio.
WHAT TO EXPECT
Despite all their weaknesses, the Whites remain an unpredictable team. The return of Patrick Bamford will boost their spirits and can see their return to the aggressive style of play they became famous for.
But David Moyes’ men are in their prime form, and with four successive victories to start the new year, they will be heading into the game with confidence. Leeds United’s leaky defences will have a tough time fending off the attacking prowess of Antonio, Bowen, and Lanzini even if their attackers come up with goals to put them ahead in the game.
West Ham are undoubtedly the favourites going into the game, but Marcelo Bielsa’s experience and tactics can never be taken lightly. Expect a hotly-contested match in which the Whites return to their goal-scoring ways.
West Ham United Predicted XI: Lukasz Fabianski, Vladimir Coufal, Craig Dawson, Issa Diop, Aaron Cresswell, Declan Rice, Nikola Vlasic, Jarrod Bowen, Manuel Lanzini, Pablo Fornals, Michail Antonio.
Leeds United Predicted XI: Illan Meslier, Luke Ayling, Robin Koch, Charlie Cresswell, Lewis Bate, Leo Hjelde, Adam Forshaw, Junior Firpo, Mateusz Klich, Daniel James, Patrick Bamford.
When: Sunday, 16th January, 7:30 PM IST
Where: London Stadium
Where to Watch: All Premier League fixtures will be featured on Disney+ Hotstar. Select matches will be telecasted live on Star Sports and Star Sports Select Channels.
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