Date: 1st January 2020
Time: 17.15 GMT, 12.15 ET, 10.15 PST.
Venue: The Hawthorns, Halfords Lane, West Bromwich, England
TV Coverage: Sky Sports Football, Sky Sports Main Event, Sky Sports Mix
Streaming: iFollow, LUTV (outside the UK).
New Year’s Day football and it’s a big one. Leeds travel to West Brom with the sides first and second in the Championship.
Baggies manager Slaven Bilic admitted that his side looked “a little bit tired” and needed to “rediscover their freshness”. However, Leeds last two performances against Preston North End and Birmingham City have also left a lot to be desired.
Leeds’ problems seem to have been caused by having to use a less familiar midfield, with Kalvin Phillips playing behind Stuart Dallas and Mateusz Klich. Dallas has not looked as comfortable playing in central midfield as he does on the wing or at full-back, but has scored two goals in two games. If one Leeds player has looked a bit tired over the last couple of games, Mateusz Klich would probably be the player the charge is levelled at.
Marcelo Bielsa is struggling for options in the middle of the park, with Pablo Hernandez and Adam Forshaw still out for a while and Jamie Shackleton still hasn’t been seen in a matchday squad since his last injury. Wales international Tyler Roberts played the last 10 minutes against Birmingham City and could be an option to play as the more advanced central midfielder, but I don’t expect Bielsa to change the midfield on the back of a win.
Behind these names Leeds main option would be Robbie Gotts, although he looks a good player he has not played a single minute for the first team and it would be a lot to throw him in now.
LANDMARK: Leeds have won their very first competitive match after conceding four goals in a single game for the first time in the club’s history.— LUFCDATA (@LUFCDATA) December 29, 2019
Some way to mark the club’s centenary year and the end of the decade. #LUFC pic.twitter.com/RIIswrJw3X
Patrick Bamford missed the Birmingham match with a dead leg but he is expected to be fine for this game. Eddie Nketiah is expected to be recalled by Arsenal, however this is expected to happen on January 2nd, meaning Nketiah should be able to take his place on the bench.
West Brom will almost certainly play with one central striker in a 4-2-3-1 formation so Leeds will be lined up in their usual 4-1-4-1 formation.
The Baggies have quality throughout the side. Sam Johnstone is a good goalkeeper, and in front of him a centre-back pairing of Kyle Bartley and Semi Ajayi looks very strong. Darnell Furlong and Nathan Ferguson are both good young full-backs, and they have experienced options as well with Egypt international Ahmed Hegazi and former England international Kieran Gibbs also defensive options.
In central midfield, a pair of Jake Livermore and Romaine Sawyers looks likely. Romaine Sawyers is one of the best passers of the ball in the division and Leeds will have to press him well because if he gets time on the ball he will create chances for the hosts. They also have Filip Krovinović on loan from Benfica and the very experienced Gareth Barry as options.
Out wide Albion have several good options. Scotland international Matt Phillips will probably line up on the right. Their best option on the left may well be West Ham loanee Grady Diangana, however he may be recalled by his parent club following the sacking of Manuel Pellegrini and hiring of David Moyes. Kyle Edwards played on the left last time out and Hal Robson-Kanu could play as part of the three, and he generally plays very well against Leeds.
Jesus Christ Ashley Fletcher that’s ridiculous pic.twitter.com/0ufA2H6v8j— Matt ♂️ (@MattJH_2001) December 29, 2019
Up front, Hal Robson-Kanu started last time out but Charlie Austin is also an option and I would expect him to get the nod. Whoever plays up front will have Brazilian Matheus Pereira behind them as a number 10, the Sporting CP loanee has five goals and 10 assists this season and has been excellent - his move could well be made permanent in January.
WBA (4-2-3-1): Johnstone; Furlong, Bartley, Ajayi, Ferguson; Livermore, Sawyers; Phillips, Pereira, Robson-Kanu; Austin.
Leeds (4-1-4-1): Casilla; Ayling, White, Cooper, Alioski; Phillips; Costa, Klich, Dallas, Harrison; Bamford.
Leeds haven’t won at the Hawthorns since 2002 and ending that record would put Leeds in a very strong position. I don’t think many Leeds fans wouldn’t be happy with a point, particularly with Leeds suddenly having defensive issues.
I always seem to turn into a pessimist when a match of this magnitude comes up and today is no different. I think West Brom will win this 3-1, but I hope I am spectacularly wrong.
What do you think the result will be? Let us know in the comments below or on Twitter @ThruItAllLUFC.