Sunday, May 22, 2022

Leeds United Look Resigned to a Championship Return

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Bernard Ford
A Leicester City fan. Wants respect from the 'London based' media for clubs outside the bubble.

There is a two-horse race at the summit of the Premier League table, with Manchester City and Liverpool going head-to-head in the battle to become champions of England. The battle at the opposite end of the table is equally as exciting, with three teams hanging onto their top-flight lives by a thread.

Norwich City were relegated to the Championship on April 30 when they fell to a 2-0 defeat away at Aston Villa, while Burnley came from behind to beat relegation rivals Watford 2-1 on the road. Watford look set for the drop because they need to win all four of their remaining fixtures and hope neither Burnley, Everton, or Leeds United pick up a single point for the rest of the campaign.

The best betting sites online make Everton the favourites to join Norwich and Watford as the relegated teams, but everything points towards Leeds United returning to the Championship after only two years of Premier League football.

Leeds Lack Quality And Strength in Depth

Leeds United were the surprise package during the 2020-21 campaign. Under the guidance of Argentinian legend Marcelo Bielsa, Leeds United played some scintillating football and finished ninth in the table, only six points outside a European place. Everyone, especially Leeds’ loyal fans, expected the Yorkshire club to be fighting for a top-eight finish at the very least, but it simply has not happened.

The Whites have endured a torrid season that has seen them win eight, draw 10, and lose 16 of their 34 games to date. A run of 10 defeats in 12 games, a period that saw Leeds concede 38 goals, saw Leeds’ hierarchy relieve Bielsa of his duties; American Jesse Marsch replaced him on February 28.

A Horrendous Injury Record

Under Marsch, Leeds have looked much more solid defensively, but the club’s list of injuries has been nothing short of ridiculous, and it is those injuries, combined with a lack of strength in depth, will ultimately cost Leeds United their place in the Premier League.

Leeds United (Bamford)
LEEDS, ENGLAND – MARCH 10: Patrick Bamford of Leeds United gives instructions during the Premier League match between Leeds United and Aston Villa at Elland Road on March 10, 2022 in Leeds, England. (Photo by George Wood/Getty Images)
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Last season’s top scorer with 17 goals, Patrick Bamford, has only managed nine appearances (two goals) this campaign and is currently on the sidelines with yet another injury. Word from the Leeds camp suggests Bamford may be able to return to the side for the last couple of Leeds fixtures.

Their talismanic midfielder, Kalvin Phillips, has missed half this season’s games through injury. The man nicknamed “The Yorkshire Pirlo” is instrumental in the Leeds team. Similar to club captain Liam Cooper, who is not the most technically gifted defender but one who epitomizes the “side before self” mantra of Yorkshire’s most famous team.

This week, the club’s injury list grew longer when midfielder Adam Forshaw, a player who missed two years through injury, fractured his kneecap in training. Exciting youngster Crysensio Summerville had been destined for a place in the starting XI until an ankle injury sustained in training ended his campaign. The aforementioned Cooper injured himself while warming up for what turned out to be a 0-4 defeat against Manchester City, while the versatile Stuart Dallas, who has played 122 of Leeds’ last 123 fixtures, broke his femur during the City defeat.

Leeds travel to high-flying Arsenal on May 8, a fixture they have lost in each of the last four visits. They then play Chelsea at Elland Road on May 11 before welcoming Brighton on May 15 for their final home game of the season. Brentford hosts Leeds on the final game of the season, but the Whites could already be relegated by that stage.

What About Burnley and Everton?

Burnley have, on paper, an easier run-in. They sacked Sean Dyche and replaced him with Michael Jackson, who has guided the Lancashire team to three successive victories for the first time since December 2018. Burnley plays Aston Villa home and away, travel to Tottenham Hotspur, and finishes the season at Turf Moor against Newcastle United.

Everton currently occupies the third relegation place and trails Leeds and Burnley by two points but has a game in hand on them. Frank Lampard’s men gave their hopes of survival a boost by beating Chelsea 1-0 on May 1. They still have to play Brentford and Crystal Palace at home and have away games at Leicester, Watford, and Arsenal.

On current form, you can see Leeds picking up a maximum of four points, Everton six, and Burnley seven. That would relegate Leeds United on goal difference.

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