Leeds United will be looking to bounce back after a disappointing defeat to West Ham United by beating Newcastle United at Elland Road on Wednesday – though they come up against a side with their tails up, having won their last two matches against West Brom and Crystal Palace. But Mark Lawrenson and Michael Owen have backed Leeds to avoid defeat.
Certainly, Steve Bruce’s side have leapfrogged Leeds into the dizzying heights of 12th place and sit only three behind sixth-placed West Ham. A late header from Dwight Gayle – a striker long linked with a move to Elland Road during Marcelo Bielsa’s tenure – saw them overcome West Brom 2-1.
Leeds are hardly showing that kind of form, though. Just one win in their last six matches have seen Leeds edge closer to the relegation zone – with only four points being taken from a possible 18. They will be desperate to avoid a third successive league loss, having been beaten by Chelsea and West Ham last time out.
Lawrenson has told BBC Sport that Leeds are becoming “naive” when it comes to defending in the Premier League, while Owen – formerly of Newcastle of course – is quoted by Leeds Live as saying that Newcastle and Leeds are of similar standard, though it is clear to see an enormous difference in style. Lawrenson predicted a 2-0 Leeds win, while Owen went for a 1-1 draw.
“Leeds are naive at the back and that is going to cost them at times this season,” Lawrenson said. “I don’t see this Newcastle side doing that to them though, so it might just come down to whether Marcelo Bielsa’s team can take their chances this time.”
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Owen declared: “It’s now one win in six matches for Marcelo Bielsa’s side with home form a big concern. That said, I don’t think there’s much between these two, and I think Leeds should have enough here to get a point.”
The big talking point when it comes to selection for us, will be how Bielsa lines up in defence. Three of the five goals conceded against West Ham and Chelsea were from set-pieces, and many believe Pascal Struijk – at 6ft 3in – should start, with Robin Koch, Diego Llorente and Gaetano Berardi missing.
Bielsa has no fresh injury concerns, though – while Pablo Hernandez played 45 minutes for the Under-23’s on Sunday. Newcastle will be without Jamaal Lascelles, Fabian Schar, Allan Saint-Maximin and Martin Dubravka. Though Fede Fernandez and Ryan Fraser are now fit again. Isaac Hayden is a doubt, but should feature.