Do or die time
Leeds United are running out of time. With six games to go, Leeds are perched on the edge of the Premier League relegation zone and they know a defeat against Leicester City would leave them in danger of dropping into the bottom three before a tricky run in.
On the face of it, this evening’s clash with Leicester City looks like their best chance to pick up three points. The game precedes another huge clash at Bournemouth before a gruelling month of May, in which Leeds play three of the top five, gets underway.
Beat the Foxes and Leeds could give themselves the confidence boost they need to get over the line. Lose and, simply put, they will be staring down the barrel.
Illan Meslier did himself no favours on Saturday afternoon, having a hand in both Fulham goals as United lost their way once more in west London. He was unable to deal with Willian’s deep cross in the build up to the Cottagers’ first before spilling the ball at the feet of Andreas Pereira, who poked home the decisive effort.
That performance came on the back of a night in which he failed to stop Liverpool scoring with all but one of their seven shots on target. As such, there have been calls to see Meslier dropped ahead of tonight’s game, with Joel Robles the preferred choice of many, and it seems Javi Gracia has a huge decision to make.
Gracia will consider the long-term impact of dropping his number one and he stuck by the custodian in his pre-match press conference, but it remains to be seen whether he feels the change is necessary.
Time for Gnonto?
Wilfried Gnonto has started just two Premier League games since Gracia’s arrival in West Yorkshire and the confusion surrounding the Spaniard’s use of the forward only seems to be growing. After confirming he was ready last week, the head coach handed him just 10 minutes to show what he could do at Craven Cottage, despite his side being short of attacking spark.
There will be changes to face the Foxes but it remains to be seen whether Gracia will look to the teenage attacker to come in at Elland Road, especially given the options he has at his disposal on the flanks, with Luis Sinisterra another vying to come back into the starting XI.
Crysencio Summerville and Jack Harrison are more than capable of producing the goods on their day, too, but Gnonto certainly provides an edge that Leeds have been lacking.
Midfield shake up
It’s fair to say the midfield Gracia fielded at Fulham fell short of expectations with Weston McKennie, Marc Roca and Brenden Aaronson all coming in for large amounts of criticism after the game. With that in mind, Adam Forshaw can probably expect to start in some capacity, but it wouldn’t be beyond the realms of possibility to see a switch in shape, too, in order to shore things up.
Dean Smith picked up his first win in the job over the weekend as the Midlands outfit claimed a 2-1 win over Wolves at the King Power Stadium. That was enough to see them move out of the relegation zone on goal difference and they’ll be riding high in confidence as they look to build on that result with another performance against the Whites.
To bolster their hopes of success, Harvey Barnes, James Maddison and Jamie Vardy are expected to be available for the clash after overcoming their respective injuries.
Elland Road’s role
Gracia sent a message to fans during his pre-match press conference on Monday afternoon. It was a designed to a be a rousing rallying call, asking the fans for more of their unwavering support, after recognising that his players could do with all the help they can get.
The Elland Road crowd needs to see a reaction from the players after three successive defeats, but the size of the fixture makes this one impossible not to get up for.