Leeds United host Stoke City on Thursday hoping to build a winning momentum, having secured a 3-1 victory in their last game against Blackburn Rovers. The Whites are currently leading the Championship table, but with West Brom and Brentford both pushing forward, they simply cannot afford to be complacent. In this article, we will discuss what Marcelo Bielsa needs to do to ensure a win against Stoke City this midweek.
Persist with Ezgjan Alioski
Helder Costa missing out in the last game could perhaps serve as a blessing in disguise for Bielsa as it allowed Ezgjan Alioski to once again make an impact going forward.
Indeed, the Macedonian offensive star constantly provided a threat to the Blackburn defence from the left flank. His combination play with Jack Harrison, coupled with his willingness to close down the opposing ball-carriers made Leeds United much more effective in the first line of press.
Moreover, Alioski is much more productive in the final third and is more than capable of producing the end product, unlike his Portuguese counterpart. Therefore, it would perhaps be a wiser choice by Bielsa to persist with Alioski in the starting lineup, even though the Argentine is tipped to have Costa back in contention.
Pablo Hernandez or Tyler Roberts?
It seems like Pablo Hernandez has become an excellent super-sub for Bielsa, especially since the restart. The Spanish, after initially suffering fitness problems last month, notably made an immediate impact as a substitute in games against Fulham and Blackburn Rovers.
However, one of the biggest takeaways from Leeds’ performance after the restart has been the emergence of Tyler Roberts. The Welshman has performed consistently, providing a lot of threat and aggression going forward. His versatility has also been useful as he can be utilised as a number nine.
Hence, Bielsa is better advised to not make any changes whatsoever in the number ten role. Roberts should start alongside Mateusz Klich, with Hernandez being reserved as a second-half substitute.
The curious case of Luke Ayling
Leeds United defence has looked clumsy in recent weeks. Even in the game against Blackburn Rovers, the Whites were caught out numerous times, although it was overall a pretty neat defensive support. And as the club locks horns with an unpredictable Stoke City this midweek, they need to be at their toes.
That’s where Luke Ayling should come in handy. In recent weeks, it has been observed that the right-back has featured in a more defensive role, providing additional support to Liam Cooper when Ben White is pushing forward. It has added a greater balance to the Leeds backline.
Bielsa, in that regard, should persist with that tactic, not only because Ayling is a reliable operator, but also because White himself has been quite effective with his build-up play. It could, therefore, add a new dimension to the club’s approach play as they look to oust the Potters.
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