Mark Lawrenson has claimed that Southampton midfielder Oriol Romeu is the heartbeat of Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side and that it is a big blow to lose the ex-Chelsea star – before making a somewhat surprising comparison with Leeds United favourite Kalvin Phillips. He also gave his prediction as Leeds take on West Ham United on Monday evening.
Romeu, 29, has been a regular for Southampton this season. He had played 22 times in all competitions for the impressive Saints, but has since suffered an injury that will keep the ex-Barcelona and Chelsea man out for the rest of the season. It is another injury blow for the Saints, who like Leeds, have suffered an enormous amount of problems to their best players.
Lawrenson concurs. He believes the loss of the Southampton anchor is detrimental to the club’s chances of finishing in mid-table or slipping into a relegation scrap. In his description of Romeu, the BBC pundit compared the Spaniard to Leeds man Phillips and the affect in which both holding midfielders have on their side – labelling both a “heartbeat”.
“Saturday won’t be easy for Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side either, especially now key midfielder Oriol Romeu has been ruled out for the rest of the season. He is like Kalvin Phillips at Leeds – the heartbeat of their team,” Lawrenson said, comparing both Romeu and Phillips – somewhat strange given Phillips is considered much more mobile, and probably more valuable.
Leeds are next in action on Monday night against the Hammers and Phillips is facing a race against time to be fit for the match. The Whites certainly missed him last time out, losing to Aston Villa in a match that saw Dean Smith’s side get revenge on the Whites – having lost to a Patrick Bamford hat-trick at Villa Park earlier in the season.
That was a match in which Leeds were also without Phillips. A video emerged on social media earlier this week, which showed Phillips teasing Raphinha and he also suggested that he was back in training on Instagram – in reaction to said video. But he was nowhere to be seen on Friday as the Under-23’s beat Wolve – while Rodrigo and Gaetano Berardi were.
Lawrenson predicted the clash in his BBC column, expecting an “up-and-dow” Leeds to lose in London 2-0 – a curse that has affected the Whites for some time.
“Leeds are very up and down at the moment – they are a bit like Aston Villa in that they are hard to predict. West Ham have been far more consistent, which is why they are in the race for the top four. Yes, they lost at Manchester City last weekend but that was still a very good performance. If Kalvin Phillips is back in the Leeds midfield then that improves their chances, but I’m backing the Hammers to maintain their impressive form.”