Elland Road plays host to Leeds United’s clash with Southampton tomorrow evening in the Premier League.
Leeds are looking to put back-to-back defeats behind them when they host the Saints, who stopped a losing streak by drawing with Chelsea at the weekend.
Ahead of Leeds hosting Southampton this week, we’ve caught up with Saints fan and Editor of Football FanCast, James Beavis, for his insight on Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side.
1) Firstly, it’s somehow our first meeting of the season! Tell us a bit about Southampton’s campaign so far…
It’s fair to say it’s been a bit of a rollercoaster so far.
We went into the season full of optimism given our Project Restart form, but two losses to start the campaign – including a 5-2 home defeat vs Spurs – quickly brought us back down to earth.
In typical Southampton fashion, we turned that around and went top of the league for the first time in the club’s spell in the Premier League back in November, prompting talk of European football and Ralph Hasenhuttl being the messiah.
However, a number of draws over the Christmas period and six straight Premier League defeats in 2021 – including another 9-0 – has left us very much in mid-table mediocrity.
To be honest it now looks as though our main focus is on the FA Cup, and we have a great chance of reaching the semi-finals with a tie against Bournemouth in the quarters.
2) Who are the key men Leeds need to watch out for?
Apart from the obvious – we all know Danny Ings can gets goals out of nothing – I think Leeds will need to be wary of Takumi Minamino.
The Liverpool loanee has two goals in three Premier League appearances so far, and both were excellent finishes.
Aside from that, Southampton fans will be hoping that Stuart Armstrong is fit again having missed the Chelsea game at the weekend.
He has proven to be pivotal to our attacking play in the last year and can be a game-changer, as shown by his bursting run down the left which led to Ings’ volley against Wolves earlier this month.
Our two ‘No.10s’ in the 4-2-2-2 formation have freedom to roam around, and if they perform and make an impact then Southampton usually benefit.
3) After a decent point against Chelsea, you must be confident of a result at Elland Road?
I’m definitely feeling more confident now we have stopped the rot, although I do also think that the form was slightly skewed by some almost scandalous – yes, I’m sorry to bring it up – VAR calls, as well as some injury issues surrounding key men.
Now we are getting those players back – although we’ll still be missing Kyle Walker-Peters, Ibrahima Diallo, Theo Walcott and potentially Armstrong at Elland Road – we are in a much better place.
The fact that we are generally better on the road and Leeds have lost 5 of their 11 home matches this season is another reason for optimism.
One key area I fear Jack Harrison could exploit is our right side, with Jan Bednarek and Moussa Djenepo – a centre back and winger by trade – sharing the RB/RWB role in Walker-Peters’ absence against Chelsea.
4) Onto Leeds… What have you made of them so far? Who has impressed you?
Having seen Marcelo Bielsa’s style of play with Leeds in the Championship I never expected them to be near a relegation battle this season, and it’s proven to be the case.
I love the fact that they are brave and won’t change their style whoever the opposition may be, even if that means their number of wins and defeats is quite similar.
Patrick Bamford has exceeded expectations and has surprised me given the criticism he has received previously, while I’m a huge fan of Kalvin Phillips – a player Leeds clearly miss when he’s absent from the starting XI.
What I like about Leeds though is I wouldn’t necessarily say any individual sticks out, and it’s more about the team and how they all work together and efficiently in Bielsa’s system.
I’m looking forward to seeing it in action on Tuesday.
5) Finally, what’s your score prediction?
Knowing these two teams, I expect there will be goals! 2-2.