Leeds will face off against their closest rivals in the Premier League table this evening as Newcastle make the journey down to Elland Road. There’s currently just three points separating the two sides and the Whites will be hoping for nothing less than a win to close that gap.
Marcelo Bielsa is currently struggling with an injury-stricken squad. Both Robin Koch and Diego Llorente are out, which has come as a huge blow to the team.
Leeds go into tonight’s game off the back of two frustrating defeats, their most recent one being a narrow 2-1 loss to West Ham at home. With their goal being three points in Yorkshire, Football FanCast has predicted how Bielsa will set up to face the Magpies tonight.
With their two new central defenders out of action, Leeds have been deploying Luke Ayling into the heart of the defence recently. However, they do still have the option of Pascal Struijk, who has only made it off the bench four times in the league this season so far (via Transfermarkt).
Tonight could be the night that Bielsa becomes a bit more brave with his starting choices. Struijk could return to the lineup in the absence of Koch, whilst Ayling returns to his usual spot at right-back. This opens up the opposite role across the backline, which could be rewarded to the elusive Leif Davis.
Ezgjan Alioski has struggled in his last few fixtures, scoring disappointing Sofascore ratings as he has operated at left-back. The versatile £55,000 per week defender could take a backseat today and be limited to a cameo appearance instead.
The Englishman hasn’t been given too many chances this season and today could be the day he shows Bielsa what he’s made of. This means Stuart Dallas can return to his new-found attacking role at left midfield, which will allow him to help out Patrick Bamford but also provide support for 19-year-old Davis as well.
Into the midfield, Bielsa has plenty of options to consider. One man he could reintroduce to the starting XI is Jamie Shackleton, who returned from a shoulder injury against West Ham for a substitute appearance.
An emphatic win over Newcastle will see Leeds overtake them in the table, otherwise they will go level on points, but behind on goal difference. The Whites must put their all into vying for three points tonight.
In other news, Bielsa risks losing Luke Ayling unless club form improves…