The Sam Allardyce era at Leeds United starts on Saturday at the Etihad Stadium and a trip to face Manchester City in what, on paper, should be the Whites’ toughest game of the campaign.
Manchester City have found several new gears in recent weeks to take command of the title race. Leeds meanwhile, seem to be in free-fall in the battle to stay in the Premier League.
The problem for Sam Allardyce is that he only has four games to try to implement any ideas. And the first of those fixtures is against Pep Guardiola’s side. So we are probably not going to get too much of a sense of what Allardyce will try and do in the next three games this weekend.
But what we can surely expect is a very defensive lineup to be named on Saturday. So here is our best attempt to predict which team he will select…
GK: Illan Meslier
As much as a change is probably needed, Allardyce may see the situation differently and stick by Illan Meslier. Perhaps it will damage his confidence further to play in this game. But expectations for the team are pretty low so any saves he makes will be a bonus.
RB: Luke Ayling
You really can’t see Allardyce opting for Rasmus Kristensen over Luke Ayling. However, the thought of either up against Jack Grealish is terrifying right now.
CB: Robin Koch
Robin Koch is one of a number of players who can be so much better than he has been of late. And we do not have the depth at centre-back to drop him.
CB: Liam Cooper
Admittedly, the next two selections are much dependant on injuries. Liam Cooper has been a favourite under almost every manager he has worked with at Leeds. And that is unlikely to change under the new gaffer.
LB: Max Wober
It would be brilliant for Leeds if Max Wober is fit. If he is, you would imagine that he may get the nod ahead of Junior Firpo at left-back. His last-ditch defending sets an example for others.
DM: Adam Forshaw
It says everything about how little Leeds have progressed that Adam Forshaw’s place in the side surely cannot be in any doubt right now. The double pivot of Marc Roca and Weston McKennie has been a disaster of late.
CM: Marc Roca
Marc Roca has played his best football alongside Tyler Adams, so hopefully having Adam Forshaw sweeping up behind him will help him again. We desperately need the Spaniard to be at his very best on the ball.
CM: Weston McKennie
Weston McKennie can clearly be so much better than what we have seen in the last few weeks. Ideally, he would be dropped for this game. But ultimately, Leeds do not have the depth to play three in the middle without him.
Perhaps Brenden Aaronson could come in to give Leeds greater energy instead. But it is hard to see both players start.
RW: Jack Harrison
Jack Harrison should be one of the first names on the teamsheet. Not only is he one of the only players who could cause City genuine problems, he offers a lot defensively. Unfortunately, the latter is probably going to be more important.
LW: Willy Gnonto
Like Harrison, Willy Gnonto is a possible game-changer. Javi Gracia’s reluctance to pick the Italian did him no favours at all. He needs to start to give the fans something to be positive about at the very least.
ST: Patrick Bamford
Allardyce appears to have hinted that Patrick Bamford will start on Saturday. He offers more in the build-up than Rodrigo, but has not been as prolific. So it’s a toss up for who should get the nod, in truth.