Facing a second daunting Premier League clash with a London club in the space of a few days, relegation-threatened Leeds United play host to Chelsea at Elland Road on Wednesday evening. The Whites went down 2-1 to Arsenal after a first-half implosion at the weekend, while Thomas Tuchel’s side were pegged back in dramatic fashion by Wolverhampton Wanderers to draw 2-2. The travelling Leeds faithful were surely expecting a drubbing at the Emirates Stadium after a catastrophic first half in the capital, with Eddie Nketiah striking twice within the opening 10 minutes and Luke Ayling being sent for an early bath after a horror tackle on Gabriel Martinelli.
Raphinha would have likely talked his way into a red card without his teammates’ intervention, although Arsenal failed to properly capitalise and even conceded to Diego Llorente’s header, but there was to be no dramatic fightback for the 10 men of Leeds. Jesse Marsch’s fast start to life at Elland Road has been brought crashing down to earth with losses to Manchester City and Arsenal, which has left the Whites’ survival fate out of their own hands as they sit below the dotted line in 18th with just three games left to play.
Leeds dropped into the relegation zone after Everton – who still have a game in hand – came up trumps at Leicester City, and fixtures with an in-form Brighton & Hove Albion and improving Brentford side are far from simple for the Whites to navigate. Furthermore, Leeds have now gone 10 games without a clean sheet at Elland Road since shutting out Crystal Palace in November – not since 1966 have they suffered a longer such streak – but Chelsea are hardly adept at holding onto a lead. Chelsea head coach Thomas Tuchel looking frustrated during fixture against Everton on May 1, 2022.
Thomas Tuchel placing his faith in Romelu Lukaku from the first whistle finally paid dividends during the visit of Wolves, as the Belgian confidently dispatched a penalty before curling home a sublime effort from the edge of the box to put the Blues in cruise control. However, with new owner Todd Boehly watching on from the stands, Chelsea capitulated in the final few moments to drop points again, as Francisco Trincao restored parity before Conor Coady headed home to spark wild celebrations in the away end.
From defending their European crown and threatening an early title charge to winning just one of their last five in the Premier League, an out-of-sorts Chelsea are just about clinging onto third place, but the gap to Arsenal has now been cut to just one point amid the Gunners’ four-game winning streak. The announcement of the takeover clearly did not galvanise the Blues at the weekend, as Tuchel has now overseen a three-game winless run in the top flight and has witnessed his side drop 20 points from winning positions this season – not reassuring statistics before the impending FA Cup final showdown with Liverpool.
Chelsea were made to work for their 3-2 success against Leeds at Stamford Bridge back in December but eventually got over the line, and it has been nearly 20 years since the Whites last got the better of the Blues in any competition, but the Blues are certainly not the mentality monsters at present. Leeds right-back Ayling has been slapped with a three-game ban for his red card against former club Arsenal and will therefore miss the rest of the season – hardly ideal with Stuart Dallas out for the long term with his broken leg.
Tyler Roberts, Adam Forshaw and Crysencio Summerville also remain out of contention for the Whites, but Marsch is hopeful that Patrick Bamford will return to training next week and can return to action before the season is over. Emirates goalscorer Llorente could deputise for Ayling and Dallas at right-back here, allowing Pascal Struijk to return to the centre of defence, while Joe Gelhardt will hope for another opportunity up top after being sacrificed early when Leeds went down to 10 on Sunday. Similarly, Chelsea have also been bedevilled by a few injury concerns of late, with Jorginho out for “some games” according to Tuchel, and N’Golo Kante will surely not be risked with the FA Cup final in mind.
Ben Chilwell and Callum Hudson-Odoi are keeping the two midfielders company in the treatment room, while Marcos Alonso was taken off at half time against Wolves and was reportedly involved in a heated row with Tuchel in the dressing room. As such, either Malang Sarr or Saul Niguez may be drafted into the side this week, and further alterations before the FA Cup final could see Andreas Christensen or Trevoh Chalobah come in as Thiago Silva is wrapped in cotton wool.
Leeds United possible starting lineup:
Meslier; Llorente, Struijk, Koch, Firpo; Klich, Phillips; Raphinha, Rodrigo, Harrison; Gelhardt
Chelsea possible starting lineup:
Mendy; Christensen, Chalobah, Rudiger; James, Kovacic, Loftus-Cheek, Sarr; Mount; Werner, Lukaku