Match: Leeds United v West Ham United
Date: 11th December 2020
Time: 20.00 GMT 15.00 ET, 12.00 PST.
Venue: Elland Road, Beeston, Leeds, West Yorkshire, England
Leeds United got beat against Chelsea last time out, and deservedly so, but this is a game which looks far more winnable - It certainly won’t be easy though.
We have previewed the match in audio form on our podcast which is linked here and is available on the major podcast platforms, and the video version is embedded below.
Leeds will have a major reshuffle in defence for the Friday night match against West Ham United at Elland Road. Robin Koch will be out for three months as he requires knee surgery, and the perennially broken Diego Llorente will be out for two to three weeks after picking up an injury on his debut against Chelsea.
Leeds will name a team which looks like a 4-1-4-1 formation, but will probably end up close to a 4-4-2, as that gives a one man deficit up top, and a one man advantage at the back, against West Ham’s 3-4-3. This will be the first time Leeds will start with Rodrigo and Raphinha in the side, and that has the fanbase, including me, very excited. That is the sort of creativity that can break down even the strongest defending.
West Ham’s 3-4-3 has a relatively low block, so they are more Wolves than Arsenal, and that is a shape that Leeds have struggled against. The midfield battle of Mateusz Klich and Kalvin Phillips against Declan Rice and Tomas Soucek will be a very interesting one - I am looking forward to seeing Klich drop into what I consider to be his best role.
The Hammers wing-backs Vladimir Coufal and Arthur Masuaku get forward well, so Jack Harrison and Raphinha will have to be disciplined going back with them. However, in attack I am looking forward to seeing Raphinha against Masuaku as I think our Brazilian winger can get the better of that duel and have a big influence on the match.
My biggest fear in this match is set pieces. Leeds’ problems defending set pieces are well documented (including by Phil Hay here) and looking at West Ham’s team, I am finding it hard to not see us conceding one from a set piece. From their likely line-up; Angelo Ogbonna, Fabian Balbuena, Declan Rice, Tomas Soucek, and Sebastian Haller are all players I would rate as better at attacking the ball in the air than anyone in Leeds’ starting lineup. Patrick Bamford clears a lot of balls at the near post and that may be more vital than his attacking output in this game, we also need Liam Cooper to have a good game both technically and keeping everyone else organised.
I would expect Leeds to have a lot of possession in this match. David Moyes will have his team sat back and will be happy with that arrangement. West Ham have a major threat on the counter attack with their front three of Pablo Fornals, Sebastian Haller, and Jarrod Bowen, with the option of Algeria forward Said Benrahma coming in (probably for Fornals).
With how much Stuart Dallas and Ezgjan Alioski are likely to push forward from the full-back positions West Ham’s 3-4-3 may look more like a 5-4-1 at times - if we see that it means Leeds are heavily on top, but it will also make West Ham very difficult to break down. I do not rate Fornals defensively so overlapping down his side could be very effective for Leeds.
With my expectation that Leeds will have most of the ball, with the opposition sitting back and ready to counter, plus being a huge threat at set-pieces, this game looks like a lot of Leeds’ matches in the Championship. We won most of those, but West Ham are better than the sides we were facing then.
Leeds (4-1-4-1, but expect Rodrigo to push up into almost a 4-4-2):
Meslier; Dallas, Ayling, Cooper, Alioski; Phillips; Raphinha, Klich, Rodrigo, Harrison; Bamford.
West Ham (3-4-3):
Fabianski; Balbuena, Ogbonna, Cresswell; Coufal, Soucek, Rice, Masuaku; Bowen, Haller, Fornals.
Prediction: Leeds 2 - 1 West Ham (Rodrigo, Bamford; Soucek) - I think I said 2-2 on the podcast but I feel a bit better about the match now, for no real reason.
What do you think the result will be? Let us know in the comments below or on Twitter @ThruItAllLUFC.