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Beren Cross & William Jackson

Leeds United line-ups vs Chelsea as Kristensen, Roca and Summerville axed with system change

Beren Cross

Mike Bassett would be proud. Leeds United are going 4-4-2 under my stewardship. After years of talking about the possibility of pairing Patrick Bamford with Kemar Roofe, Eddie Nketiah, Jean-Kevin Augustin or Rodrigo, there might finally be a workable foil for the number nine.

He’s been a slow burner up to now, but Georginio Rutter took enough of a step forward on Tuesday night at Fulham for him to get a full Premier League debut on Saturday. I am intrigued to see how he dovetails with Bamford.

The Frenchman seems to have the skillset and versatility to go beyond Bamford if the former Chelsea striker drops deep to occupy defenders and link with the midfield. It does mean Wilfried Gnonto and Crysencio Summerville have to do a little more defensively in supporting a pivot of Weston McKennie and Tyler Adams, however.

READ MORE: Every word Javi Gracia said on Leeds United injuries, Potter advice, fast progress, Rutter, Chelsea

Marc Roca is the unfortunate fall guy in this setup. The Spaniard did not impress me at Craven Cottage, while McKennie seemed to find another gear in the centre.

The only question mark in defence is to Robin Koch’s left. Whichever one of Liam Cooper or, preferably, Max Wober are fit would be my selection on the left of central defence.

The Austrian was either rested in the cup to avoid aggravating his Everton shoulder issue, or he is in fact unavailable. If neither of them makes it then Rasmus Kristensen continues, but at right-back with Luke Ayling inside him.

Beren’s XI: Meslier; Ayling, Koch, Wober, Firpo; Summerville, Adams, McKennie, Gnonto; Rutter, Bamford.

Will Jackson

Javi Gracia has tread carefully when speaking about injuries and he gave nothing away when asked for a team news update on Thursday afternoon, meaning it’s hard to know exactly who will be in contention to play on Saturday. I’ve had to make a couple of assumptions and guesses this week, then, in terms of available personnel.

Firstly, I’d stick with the 4-3-3 system we saw from Leeds on Tuesday night. Leeds weren’t always in control of the midfield battle and it was a bit sloppy at times, but it seemed to work as Weston McKennie could be seen stepping up into a more advanced role when in possession.

That three-man midfield could be key when it comes to crowding out whoever plays across Chelsea’s attacking line. The Blues have a myriad of options, but if Leeds can restrict the space they have in possession and press aggressively at the right times, as they did back in August, they might just ruffle a few feathers.

Therefore, a midfield of Tyler Adams, McKennie and Marc Roca seems to work for me. They just need to be better at keeping hold of the ball when they have it. I’d have them playing in front of what is starting to become a familiar back four, assuming Max Wober was just rested last time out at Fulham, of course.

That means Wober plays alongside Robin Koch, with Luke Ayling and the in-form Junior Firpo on the left. Even if Pascal Struijk is fit, he only makes the bench for me at the minute.

Leeds’ front three need to prepare themselves for some hard graft this weekend and I’ve prioritised those who I deem to get through the most work on both sides of the ball. Jack Harrison has been a figure of frustration lately, but he’s willing to track back and do the dirty work down the line when asked to do so.

Gnonto and Bamford are happy to do that, too, meaning they get the nod to start and the two wingers in particular have a big role to play on the counter. For me, Georginio Rutter had his best game in a Leeds shirt in midweek, I’d be looking for him to step off the bench relatively early into the second half and make an impact.

Will’s XI: Meslier; Ayling, Koch, Wober, Firpo; McKennie, Adams, Roca; Harrison, Bamford, Gnonto.


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