Top vs second at this stage barely means anything as there are still 40 games to be played after this one, but a win in a fixture that always has a feisty atmosphere will mean everything to Marcelo Bielsa, whose winning mentality doesn’t allow room for errors.
In a recent interview, Pontus Jansson revealed that: “2-2 at Swansea was not a bad result, we won a point but then we had a one and a half hour meeting with Marcelo and he killed us almost.” The tactical genius of Bielsa was shown as he replaced Phillips on the 25th-minute mark in order to balance the game. At Norwich, this seemed to reinvigorate Phillips who put in his best performance in a white shirt
We are likely to see this kind of quick thinking in the Boro game if things start poorly. Under Pulis, they have started strongly and look a side that is challenging for promotion. However, their league position doesn’t really reflect how they’ve played. Boro don’t really play electric football nor do they dominate games, but they grind out the results, most recently beating West Brom in a dull 1-0 win.
Jonny Howson will be a make or break player in this game as it will be interesting to see how he copes against the pressure applied by Mateusz Klich and Samu Saiz in the middle of the park. On his day everything can go through the former Leeds man and he can create and even score when needs be. The 4-1-4-1 that Bielsa uses will make the Boro midfield have to think fast when moving the ball, otherwise they will get caught in possession and suddenly Leeds have 6 players running at the defence.
Leeds United Predicted XI (4-1-4-1)
LM – Harrison
I can see Bielsa finally utilising the partnership of Jansson and Cooper as in an interview the Argentine revealed that Cooper is fit for Friday’s game, and Jansson has also been racking up the minutes and seems back to his best. The only other change I can possibly see being made is Jack Harrison coming in for Alioski as he was one of the only men who impressed me in the defeat to Preston.
Score Prediction: Leeds 2-1 Middlesbrough