Match: Chelsea v Leeds United
Date: 5th December 2020
Time: 20.00 GMT 15.00 ET, 12.00 PST.
Venue: Stamford Bridge, Fulham, London, England
Leeds United travel down south to face Chelsea, where down south? London. I don’t need to point out how bad our record in London is. There are tactical factors at play, there are quality players on both sides, but my biggest worry is still “Leeds never win in London”.
Tactically speaking, I think Leeds measure up quite well against Chelsea. Frank Lampard has switched to a 4-3-3 this season after mostly using a 4-2-3-1 last season and this will mean Leeds are very likely to line up in a 4-1-4-1 formation.
“We can go anywhere and surprise teams, we are not afraid" Gjanni looks ahead to our clash with Chelsea— Leeds United (@LUFC) December 4, 2020
I would have expected Leeds to be unchanged, but there are rumours today that Germany international Robin Koch will miss the match through injury so we could see Pascal Struijk take his place at the back. Or Rodrigo could come in to the side, moving Mateusz Klich a bit deeper, with Stuart Dallas moving to right-back, and Luke Ayling playing centre-back. Spain centre-back Diego Llorente is fit, and would be the number one option, but Marcelo Bielsa is not likely to pick him after injury with no u23 minutes under his belt and a probable lack of general fitness at this stage.
The reason to favour the like for like change is based on the midfield three of Chelsea for me. Chelsea use two attacking “number eights” either side of N’Golo Kante, likely to be Mason Mount and either Kai Havertz or Mateo Kovacic, I would guess Havertz. As both Mount and Havertz will attack a lot, Kalvin Phillips will have to pick one up with one of Leeds central midfielders picking up the other. This slightly more disciplined, less attacking than usual, role suits Stuart Dallas more than it does Mateusz Klich. Dallas is also developing a good relationship with Ezgjan Alioski which could be very useful, especially when (probably) Hakim Ziyech comes infield, dragging Alioski with him and leaving space for one of the “eights” of Chelsea to attack the remaining space.
The reasons for pushing for the Rodrigo start and the reshuffle are twofold. First, Rodrigo is quality and we should look to start him if we can, purely based on him being one of our best players. The other reason, is that Marcelo Bielsa prefers a balanced CB pairing in terms of left/right sided players. The Ayling/Cooper partnership has this, whereas the Struijk/Cooper pairing does not.
I do not know which will win out, I am leaning towards Rodrigo starting with Ayling CB, Dallas RB, and Klich playing as a more standard “number eight”. Hopefully, Robin Koch is fit and this is all moot.
I still expect Tammy Abraham to get the start up front despite Olivier Giroud scoring four goals against Sevilla in the Champions League in midweek. However, whichever player starts it will be a big test as both are high quality forwards. Luke Ayling/Stuart Dallas will have a tough time trying to deal with the pace of Timo Werner running in behind from the left-wing - expect to see Werner making a lot of runs through the middle as the striker drops off to link-up play, this could become especially frequent if Giroud gets the start.
Lampard ahead of Leeds: "Everyone is fit."— Nizaar Kinsella (@NizaarKinsella) December 4, 2020
On Giroud: "I don't think it is a case of giving any player an assurances over game time with the size of squad we have." He goes onto praise Giroud as always. #CFC #LUFC
As Chelsea press high, and Leeds are coached by Marcelo Bielsa, this match could become very open, very quickly. The term “a Basketball game” has been thrown around and it is a fair shout in my opinion. If Leeds can pass the ball well and break Chelsea’s initial press then we absolutely have enough quality to hurt them. Full-backs Reece James and Ben Chilwell (Chilwell in particular) push very high and will therefore leave a lot of space behind them for Leeds’ wingers to attack.
We have seen Jack Harrison run himself into the ground to get up and down the pitch so I think he can stay with Reece James down Leeds’ left, but we are yet to see if Raphinha has the discipline to stick with a full-back like Chilwell when Chelsea break forward. It was noted that Raphinha was moved away from doing that job against Alex Iwobi in the Everton match.
Although Chelsea’s press offers opportunities for Leeds, it also presents a lot of danger. We have struggled against high presses when executed well, especially if that press is heavily focused on Kalvin Phillips, preventing his excellent passing range. If that happens then Leeds centre-backs may need to take more responsibility for the longer, diagonal passes -which Phillips excelled with in the win over Everton.
Patrick Bamford against Kurt Zouma and Thiago Silva is a battle that I think Bamford can get the better of. Both with his good movement when Leeds are in possession, and off the ball where both Chelsea centre-backs have shown they can be pressed into making mistakes. Unfortunately Chelsea have signed Edouard Mendy to replace the beleaguered Kepa Arrizabalaga, the presence of whom would increase Leeds’ chances.
The Everton game I said would be open and high scoring. In the end there was only one goal but it was very open and could have seen many more goals. I would expect more of the same from this match. However, if I am expecting this match to be both sides attacking quickly, that generally favours the side with higher quality players - unfortunately for us - that side right now is Chelsea.
Chelsea (4-3-3): Mendy; James, Zouma, Silva, Chilwell; Havertz, Kante, Mount; Ziyech, Abraham, Werner
Leeds (4-1-4-1): Meslier; Dallas, Ayling, Cooper, Alioski; Phillips; Raphinha, Klich, Rodrigo, Harrison; Bamford.
Prediction: Chelsea 2 - 1 Leeds (Werner, Mount; Raphinha)
What do you think the result will be? Let us know in the comments below or on Twitter @ThruItAllLUFC.