Leeds United’s trip to Newcastle could define their season

Of the three teams promoted to the Premier League last season, two of them are indeed looking into the barrel of relegation.

Despite pressing Sam Allardyce’s panic button more than a month ago, West Brom remains six points adrift of safety, Scott Parker Fulham’s side just one point closer to survival.

Marcelo Bielsa
Leeds have been struggling lately | Pool / Getty Images

So among the 2019/20 Championship alumni, the only team currently in the top tier that appears to be thriving is Leeds United – 11 points above the drop zone, comfortably seated in the middle of the table with a striker just three pace goals. setter in the race for this season’s Golden Boot.

Bow over Leeds, it looks like a lot of your fans who predicted a potential European spot in your first season at the time weren’t too far off.

Oh how the Yorkshiremen wish it were true.

If a team were given a point every time an expert described them as a “breath of fresh air” (whether they were absolutely torn at that point or not), Marcelo Bielsa’s team would be on the right track. way to usurp Pep The centurions of Guardiola from 2017/18.

Sadly, there is no prize for playing attacking football alone – ask everyone’s favorite former attacking team Blackpool, who went from Premier League to League Two in just five years – and Leeds is in grave danger of being drawn into a relegation fight if they don’t. pick up three points against Newcastle.

Since Bielsa took the reins of Elland Road, momentum has been the key to their success. His high intensity playstyle clearly takes its place on players as the season progresses, but when your team wins it’s a lot easier to get on the tough yards.

However, despite all the impressive winning streaks Leeds have mastered since the Argentinian chef de mission arrived, their meltdowns have been just as dramatic, and their current three-game winless streak – including losses to a struggling team. from Brighton and League Two Crawley – has all the features. of the start of another car accident in Leeds.

But it’s not all gloomy and gloomy – if Bielsa could pick a league side to play next, it would be Newcastle.

The Magpies are in a state of disarray at the moment – ten winless in all competitions, pressure builds so much on Steve Bruce that they have banned newspapers from asking questions at his press conferences, Mike Ashley leaves looking like a distant dream and report that the club will not sanction any newcomers this transfer window.

Steve bruce
Steve Bruce’s Newcastle are another team fighting for form | Clive Brunskill / Getty Images

Besides Leeds giving them a football lesson earlier this season when they demolished Bruce’s men 5-2, this game couldn’t have come at a better time for Bielsa’s men. However, with the wait comes the pressure, and if Leeds loop at St James’ Park they are in big trouble.

Over the next month, Bielsa’s side face some very difficult fixtures, including clashes with Leicester, Everton, Aston Villa, as well as trips to Arsenal and Wolves. The only game you’d say they’d be in as favorites sees them face off against a Crystal Palace side who destroyed them at Selhurst Park in November.

While Leeds’ early season success was the result of strong team performances, a number of key people stood out after questioning their top-level qualifications.

Goalkeeper Illan Meslier performed brilliantly in the early months of the season – although he looked unstable at times in the championship – while Patrick Bamford defied critics by finding the back of the net with consistency.

However, in recent weeks Meslier has looked more like the vulnerable youngster who struggled last season, while Bamford are three games without a goal – not a disaster but still his worst streak of the season.

Two men out of shape
Two men out of shape | Pool / Getty Images

Leeds look like a team that needs a spark, something to revive their campaign and get them out of the doldrums, and a little individual shine or a quality display from one of their top performers from the start of the season could just be the ticket.

Put simply, Leeds can hardly afford to embark on this tough run of matches with little confidence, and if a dismal Newcastle side manage to remove even one point from Bielsa’s visit to the north- is, that’s exactly what will happen.

The games that define the season don’t usually arrive until April / May, but it’s fair to say that – just a few weeks into 2021 – Leeds are poised to face theirs.