Leeds United v Leicester City
Monday 02 November, 20:00
Live on Sky Sports
Has Bielsa mastered the burnout factor?
There is almost universal respect and admiration for Leeds United boss Marcelo Bielsa as a coach, and indeed Leicester manager Brendan Rodgers is one of the Argentinean’s many acolytes, describing him as a football pioneer whose work he has followed for years. However, for much of his career Bielsa has gone without tangible success, a nearly-man with a tinge of genius.
At Marseille, he was on the cusp of Ligue 1 glory, with his stylish team top at the midway point of the season. However, l’OM collapsed in the latter stages and finished fourth. With Athletic Club in Bilbao, his team mesmerised at home and abroad, blowing away Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United in a famed Europa league tie. At the end of a wonderful season, Athletic Club lost the final of the Europa League and the final of the Copa del Rey, a pair of stinging 3-0 defeats.
The accusation against Bielsa has always been that his captivating football comes at too high a physical cost, that his players are so fatigued at the end of a campaign that they can’t function effectively in title deciders and finals. However, having mastered the Championship, one of the most demanding competitions in world football, that view of Bielsa may have to change. On their way to winning the second-tier title, Leeds won 12 of their final 14 games.
If Bielsa truly has found a way to avoid running his players into the ground, the sky’s the limit for the Whites this term. With a compacted schedule and teams at the top playing in Europe, there is a scope for a club to come out of the pack and challenge for the top six (Leeds are trading at 9/25.6 in the Top 6 Finish market) and Bielsa’s side has made a strong start. They pushed Liverpool hard in a 4-3 loss at Anfield, held Manchester City and they just thrashed an in-form Aston Villa 3-0 in Birmingham.
Patrick Bamford has already rattled in six PL goals, Mateusz Klich has been excellent in midfield, and Liam Cooper has led the defence superbly. Cooper has returned to full fitness, although Bielsa has been coy about whether he will start this weekend. Midfield pivot Kalvin Phillips is still unavailable, and Pascal Struijk failed to replace him effectively at Villa Park. Jamie Shackleton could get the nod instead.
Foxes enjoying their travels
It’s been a remarkable start to the season for Leicester City. At the King Power Stadium, they have suffered back-to-back defeats against West Ham and Aston Villa without scoring. On the road, the Foxes have won all three of their top-flight games, including a jaw-dropping 5-2 win at Manchester City and a 1-0 success at Arsenal.
The evergreen Jamie Vardy continues to underpin their success. The 33-year-old was the Premier League’s top scorer last term, and he has already scored six goals in just five appearances. He also found the net in Thursday’s 2-1 win at AEK Athens. Vardy is the 7/17.8 third favourite in the PL Top Goalscorer market.
The concern for Rodgers is that his squad is a bit banged up after a punishing schedule. Right-backs Timothy Castagne and Ricardo Pereira are out, as are centre-backs Jonny Evans and Caglar Soyuncu. Wilfrid Ndidi is still absent from midfield.
Leeds poised to edge close encounter
Earlier in the week, the Match Odds market was split down the middle, but the market has sided with Leeds United as the week has gone on. The hosts are now trading at 8/52.56 to take the three points, and I’ll recommend backing them Draw No Bet at 10/111.9. Leicester have had a tough week, with trips to London and Athens, and they’ll be playing a team that’s had over a week to recharge and repair. I think Leeds’s hard-running approach could be too much to handle for injury-hit visitors who can’t be at 100% fitness.
Goals on the cards
Leeds are yet to keep a clean sheet so far at Elland Road, but they are averaging two goals per PL game overall, while Leicester have scored in all four of their competitive away games this term. You can therefore understand why Both Teams To Score is trading at 5/81.63.
You could use the Same Game Multi to combine a Leeds/Draw Double Chance bet with Both Teams To Score at 11/102.1, or you could combine Double Chance with Over 1.5 Goals at 8/111.73.
Bamford and Vardy take centre-stage
Patrick Bamford smashed in a hat-trick at Villa Park, and has six goals overall. He is priced at a chunky 7/4 to score at any time. Jamie Vardy also has six Premier League goals, and is quoted at evens to enhance his tally.