Norwich v Leeds – Championship Preview

Recent form:

Norwich City: DLWLW

Leeds United: WWWWD

Head to head:

Norwich City wins: 22

Draws: 16

Leeds United wins: 19

The last meeting  at Carrow Road:

Saturday 28th April 2018

Norwich 2

Leeds 1

 

How both teams currently stand:

Fresh from their exciting two all draw at Swansea on Tuesday, Championship leaders Leeds face another away game at Norwich on Saturday. The West Yorkshire side has been the talk of the English footballing fraternity so far this season. The whites have adopted a high-intensity attacking gameplan, which is the hallmark of their legendary Argentinean head coach Marcelo Bielsa. The Leeds fans have dubbed their side’s new attacking philosophy ‘Bielsa-Ball’. This new approach has given rise to a level of optimism throughout the club and the city that has been lacking since the early 2000s. Critics of Marcelo Bielsa’s style believe that his rigorous demands on his players will lead to a sharp decline in the level of intensity and work rate when Leeds reach the crucial months of the Championship season in February and March. According to the Yorkshire Evening Post on Thursday, the ex Chile and Argentina head-coach declared that he has no plan B or C and if he abandoned his strategy when times are tough, his players will lose faith in him and his philosophy. The resilience shown by the Leeds players in coming from behind twice at the Liberty Stadium showcases the mental strength that Bielsa has instilled in his team.

Norwich won their first game of the season against Preston on Tuesday night. Two late goals in the final ten minutes were enough to seal a much-needed win and ease the levels of anxiety amongst the Canaries fanbase. Norwich’s German head-coach Daniel Farke will be hoping that the scrappy win over Preston will be the catalyst for an upturn in results for the East Anglican outfit. Former Dutch international goalkeeper Tim Krul played a pivotal role in securing the three points on Tuesday, making some fantastic saves to keep the game scoreless for 79 minutes. The Norwich fans have been critical of the side’s style of play so far this season. There has been an absence of pace and guile in Norwich’s attack in the first four league games, and they will need to improve their performance levels vastly if they are to take at least a point from Saturday’s match at Carrow Road.

Team News:

Leeds captain Liam Cooper limped out of the warmup at Swansea and will miss the next three weeks. Swedish centre-back Pontus Jansson who also missed the draw in Wales will undergo late tests to prove his fitness. Leeds top-scorer Kemar Roofe will likely start ahead of the recent £10 million forward Patrick Bamford who performed well of the substituted bench on Tuesday.

Daniel Farke is expected to make some changes to the eleven who started against Preston. German defensive midfielder Tom Trybull is likely to be named alongside Alex Teety at the heart of the midfield. Argentine winger Emiliano Buendia who signed from Spanish side Getafe in June could be set for his first ever start for the Canaries.

Match Prediction:

Both sides have averaged over 50% possession and a minimum of 13 shots on goal so far this season A free-flowing attacking game looks to be on the cards. Leeds has scored at least two goals in each league so far this season and now possess a set-piece specialist in new signing Barry Douglas. Defending set-plays have been an issue for Norwich in the first four league matches, so this an avenue Leeds will likely look to exploit throughout the ninety minutes. Leeds injury crisis at centre-half meant that regular full-backs Gaetano Berardi and Luke Ayling started in the middle of the defence at the Liberty Stadium. The absence of a commanding central defender was exploited by Swansea’s tall, gangly forward Oliver McBurnie, who scored a brace on the night.

If Pontus Jansson fails to start the game, then Norwich’s bulky Finnish attacker Teemu Pukki will be looking to take advantage of the missing players in the Leeds central defence. Leeds will be desperate to keep their unbeaten run going, and they possess better-attacking options in the final third in comparison with Norwich. A 2-1 win for Leeds is the predicted scoreline with Kemar Roofe scoring at least once for the whites.

Swansea 2 – Leeds 2: Five Takeaways

Leeds and Swansea played out an exciting two-all draw at the Liberty Stadium on Tuesday night. I don’t think it would be harsh to say but the Leeds side from last season would have capitulated and lost that game. However, it appears that this team possess a more significant amount of mental toughness compared to previous Leeds teams. Swansea dominated the first thirty minutes but Marcelo Bielsa made some shrewd tactical adjustments, and Leeds went in at half-time level. Despite conceding early in the second half, Leeds persevered and ended up taking a valuable point away from home.

Below are my thoughts on the draw:

Bielsa Changes:- This was the worst Leeds performance so far this season. The loss of Liam Cooper was a huge blow just before kick-off. Leeds lacked the intensity and composure on the ball which have been hallmarks of their first four wins of the season. Leeds went into the game without picking up any yellow cards. In the first half alone, they received three yellow cards and four overall.roofe Kalvin Phillips looked nothing like the commanding presence he had portrayed in the first three league victories. He seemed out of sorts and was the first player booked. Bielsa showed he will not shy away from the big decisions and replaced his sitting midfielder with Lewis Baker four minutes after the first Swansea goal. “El Loco” is evidently not prone to sentimentality and is ready to make the tough calls anytime during the game. By making the early substitution, he clearly showed his squad that no-one can rest on their laurels. The introductions of Harrison and Bamford in the second half were crucial in Leeds claiming a share of the spoils. Over the past 5 seasons, Leeds would have never shown the mental strength to grab a share of the spoils. Did Leeds deserve a point? Maybe not, but that’s why we pay Bielsa £2 million a year. His tactical alterations kept the unbeaten run going.

Resilience:- Marcelo Bielsa and his staff deserve immense credit for giving this Leeds squad a much-needed boost to their mental toughness. Losing your captain before the game and conceding a goal in the first fifteen minutes could have seen the team fold like past few seasons. Instead, we saw a newfound resoluteness inspired by the confidence Bielsa and his staff have instilled in the squad. Tuesday night’s draw was the first game since Brighton in 2012, where a Leeds side came from behind twice in the same game. I believe this to be the most impressive takeaway from the game. With the likes of Cooper, Forshaw and Jansson to return from injury, I am firmly convinced that this squad now possesses the necessary belief and self-confidence which has been distinctly lacking for the past few seasons.

Shackleton:- Jamie Shackleton was superb in his first league start for Leeds. Perhaps the late call-up to replace Liam Cooper meant he did not have time to be anxious. He definitely showed no signs of nerves and produced a fearless display. The incisive run and cross for Kemar Roofe’s goal proved the massive potential of this young player. Shackleton’s overall performance showed that Bielsa is inspiring his players not only to give their all for the team but also not to be afraid to showcase their skills on the ball. The future looks bright for the young academy graduate. Hopefully, he will not suffer the same delusions of grandeur that afflicted Sam Byram and can play a crucial role in the club over the next few years.

Swansea Tactics:- Graham Potter’s tactics and game plan stifled Leeds in the first half of the match. I saw his Osterunds side play a few times in the Europa League where he showed he can be tactically astute and set up his team to blunt his opponents. Potter is the first manager this season to put a system in place that put Leeds under real pressure. I would not be surprised if Swansea ends up finishing fighting for a play-off place at the end of the season.

Norwich:- The Leeds squad face another tricky away game at Carrow Road on Saturday. I firmly hope that either Pontus Jansson or Liam Cooper will be fit enough to be part of the squad. Leeds lacked the physicality to handle Oliver McBurnie. I highly doubt that he would have scored his second goal if Cooper or Jansson had started the game. Norwich will be fully aware that Leeds might struggle against a dominant centre-forward. Despite Jamie Shackleton’s excellent display, I would much prefer to have the defensive solidity of Luke Ayling at right back against Norwich. Marcelo Bielsa lamented the fact that Leeds did not defend well at Swansea and it is an area that must improve if we plan to come away with a good result at the weekend. Patrick Bamford will be pushing for a start, but barring injury, I can’t see Bielsa dropping his top scorer. The manager, his staff and the players should be buoyed by Tuesday’s performance. I think that they answered the question of how they would react to falling behind in a game.