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[Image] Can Bielsa’s men find their form back? Predicted 4-1-4-1 Leeds United XI to face Swansea City

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Predicted Leeds United line-up to face Swansea City in the Championship

The loss to Norwich City did hurt Marcelo Bielsa and Leeds United more than it first seemed, with the Peacocks falling to a 1-1 draw against Middlesbrough the following weekend. That draw meant Norwich City have a two-point lead over them at the top.

Leeds now face a struggling Swansea City, who have only managed to win two out of their last five games in the Championship. The reverse fixture between these two teams ended in a 2-2 draw, with the Peacocks leaving it late to equalise.

However, with the title race on the line, this could be their chance to take back the top spot, especially considering that Norwich are up against an in-form Preston team. It is easier said than done though, as nothing is guaranteed in football, chiefly in the Championship. But Leeds have the team to heap more misery on Swansea.

Team News

Leeds United star Jack Clarke has only just been released from the hospital after complaining of feeling unwell and the BBC has reported that he won’t train for the remainder of the week. This effectively rules him out, along with Stuart Dallas and Gaetano Berardi.

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Meanwhile, Adam Forshaw didn’t make the line-up against Middlesbrough and thus could once again miss the clash against the Swans, along with Barry Douglas. However, Izzy Brown is finally available but could only make the bench once again.

Predicted Leeds United XI

Formation: 4-1-4-1

Manager: Marcelo Bielsa

Kiko Casilla (GK)

The former Real Madrid man has played the last two games and impressed since his arrival in the January transfer window. Unlike a few stars, he could keep his place in Bielsa’s line-up.

Ezgjan Alioski (LB)

The 27-year-old has played every game this season and given his experience, there is no obvious reasons as to why he should miss the next game. He needs to improve on the performance front though.

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Liam Cooper (CB)

Captain Liam Cooper has been in excellent form this season for Leeds United and should lead the team well in pressure situations.

Aapo Halme (CB)

The 20-year-old has made four appearances this season but has only two starts. For that reason, we could see Bielsa giving him a chance.

Luke Ayling (RB)

The 27-year-old has been out of form in the past few games and must improve otherwise his place in the team could be in jeopardy.

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Kalvin Phillips (CDM)

The 23-year-old has done relatively well for Leeds United this season but was dropped for the clash against Norwich City before returning with a 90+11th-minute equaliser against Middlesbrough.

Jack Harrison (RW)

With Jack Clarke out sick, it looks like it’s time for on-loan Manchester City star Jack Harrison to step up and make his name. While Clarke should be back next week, Harrison could make a point to Bielsa with a good performance.

Tyler Roberts (CM)

With Adam Forshaw out injured for an unknown amount of time, Roberts who has deputised at central midfield could step in for the former. The centre-forward has done relatively well, playing as a central midfielder and could continue doing so.

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Mateusz Klich (CM)

Partnered alongside Kemar Roofe in the last game, this time Klich could see himself playing alongside Roberts, with Kalvin Philips behind them.

Pablo Hernandez (LW)

The 33-year-old has made a large majority of his appearances in the starting eleven and could continue doing so, with Marcelo Bielsa have to be hard pressed to find a reason to keep his most creative player out. Hernandez has produced 18 goals this season.

Read More: Leeds United beating promotion rivals to sign this 6ft tall Scottish starlet would be a massive coup

Kemar Roofe (ST)

If Pablo Hernandez is Leeds United’s creator-in-chief, then Kemar Roofe is the man who finishes most of those chances. The 24-year-old has 14 goals to his name this season and will look to increase his tally against Swansea City.

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Huddersfield Dragon

5 Talking points from Championship gameweek 3 including Leeds United and Jan Siewert’s sacking

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Five talking points from Championship game week three

The third gameweek of the 2019/20 Championship campaign offered a lot of thrills and spills throughout the weekend.

Hull City continued their unbeaten run, while Reading gave Cardiff City a 3-0 hiding on Sunday. But the biggest talking point of the weekend was Jan Siewart’s dismissal after Huddersfield Town fell to a 2-1 defeat to Fulham.

That being said, here are five talking points from the Championship gameweek three.

1. Luton Town 1-2 West Brom: Grady Diangana helps the Baggies to three points

After a miserable week that saw West Brom get eliminated from the Carabao Cup at the hands of Millwall, the Baggies managed to bounce back with a 2-1 win against Luton.

Substitute Grady Diangana scored twice within six minutes of coming on for his West Brom league debut to give Slaven Bilic’s side a crucial win.

West Brom are one of the five teams with seven points after three games, having come from behind to win 2-1 against Luton as they did on the opening day against Nottingham Forest.

2. Wigan Athletic 0-2 Leeds United: Patrick Bamford double sinks Wigan

Leeds United’s good start to the season continued at the weekend as they ran out 2-0 winners against a 10-man Wigan Athletic. Marcelo Bielsa’s side deserved a win, which saw them move back to the top of the Championship table.

If there was anybody in Leeds’ ranks who needed a goal to regain confidence, it had to be Patrick Bamford. With previous season’s top-scorer Kemar Roofe departing the club, the Whites desperately need Bamford to deliver the goods this term. And the former Chelsea man bagged a brace, sending the fans home on a happy note.

3. Barnsley 2-2 Charlton Athletic: The Addicks maintain their unbeaten start to the season

Charlton Athletic have enjoyed a solid start to the Championship campaign following their promotion this year. They are one of the five teams with seven points after three games.

A 90th-minute penalty from Lyle Taylor helped Charlton maintain their unbeaten start to the season in an entertaining draw with Barnsley at Oakwell.

Barnsley were 2-1 up, thanks to goals from Cauley Woodrow and Conor Chaplin, but a foul from defender Bambo Diaby on Conor Gallagher handed the Addicks a lifeline in the 90th minute.

And Taylor stepped up confidently to salvage a point from the spot for Lee Bowyer’s visitors.

4. Huddersfield Town 1-2 Fulham: Jan Siewert sacked by the Terriers

Jan Siewert was sacked after a defeat to Fulham which left him with a record of just one win in 19 matches at the John Smith’s stadium.

Only one point in the first three games has left the Terriers reeling in the relegation zone. It was all doom and gloom under Siewert and sacking him after a poor start to the season was perhaps the only decision the club’s hierarchy could take.

For now, Siewert’s assistant head coach Colin Bell remains a part of the coaching staff, and Mark Hudson will also be assisted by academy manager Leigh Bromby and under-19s manager Dean Whitehead.

5. Millwall 1-0 Sheffield Wednesday: The Owls’ unbeaten start to the season is over

Sheffield Wednesday’s unbeaten start to the new season was over as they fell to a 1-0 defeat to a 10-man Millwall in what was a very frustrating afternoon for the Owls.

Matt Smith gave Millwall the lead with a header from a corner but his teammate Jed Wallace was sent off in the first half. That gave Sheffield Wednesday a fantastic chance to maintain their 100% record. However, they struggled to create clear openings and lost at the Den.

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Bristol City

5 Talking points from Leeds United’s 3-1 win vs Bristol City in the Championship season-opener

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5 Talking Points from Leeds United’s 3-1 victory over Bristol City in the season-opener

Leeds United’s pursuit of promotion to the Premier League might have ended in disappointment last season but those demons hardly played a part when Marcelo Bielsa’s side made a thumping start to the 2019-20 campaign of the Championship with a resounding 3-1 victory over Bristol City at Ashton Gate on Sunday.

Many would have expected the Yorkshire giants to be in a hangover of the agony of blowing away a golden chance to make it to the Premier League last season but the Whites answered their critics in the best possible manner over the course of the 90 minutes in their 2019-20 Championship season-opener at Ashton Gate.

Indeed, in a dominant display that reflected the team’s tough character and strong mentality, Leeds sent out a strong message to the other promotion-chasing teams that they are ready to battle it out for the Championship’s ultimate prize – promotion to the Premier League.

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Bielsa’s side caught the game by the scruff of the neck right from the very start as the Whites controlled possession with authority, never really allowing the Robins to get into their rhythm. They even managed to carve out some impressive chances of their own.

Pablo Hernandez’s wonder goal midway through the first-half followed by goals from Patrick Bamford and Jack Harrison in the second half was enough to seal all three points for the West Yorkshire giants, as Andreas Weimann’s deflected near-post strike eleven minutes from time proved to be just a mere consolation.

On a matchday where all the newly-relegated teams from the Premier League – Fulham, Cardiff City and Huddersfield Town, suffered shock defeats, the fans at Elland Road have every reason to be happy with the fact that Leeds managed to overcome the jitters in their opening fixture.

Looking back at how things went for the Whites over the course of the ninety minutes at Ashton Gate, Marcelo Bielsa should have plenty of positives to take from his team’s victory and he is supposed to be the happiest of the lot given that all his hard work in stitching the team together during the pre-season seemed to have paid rich dividends.

With that in mind, let us analyse Leeds’ performance in detail and jot down a few talking points from their 3-1 victory over Bristol City.

1. Old is Gold – Pablo Hernandez is simply the best

Cometh the hour, cometh the man – it was none other than the 34-year-old Pablo Hernandez, who lit up the scenes at Ashton Gate with some eye-catching moments of individual brilliance to play a starring role in what was an excellent team performance.

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The fans would probably have feared that this season would be the beginning of Hernandez’s decline given his advancing years, but the Spaniard once again reminded everybody of the old cliche, ‘age is nothing but just a number’.

Hernandez’s excellent close control and skilful turn to shift the ball on to his stronger foot, followed by an incredible curling strike into the top corner of David Bentley’s goal opened the scoring for the Whites in the first half, leaving many to wonder as to how the 34-year-old continues to produce such mesmerizing moments even at this age.

That, however, was just the beginning, as Hernandez continued to create problems for the Robins’ backline with his pace, guile, skills and subtle movement. He was once again in the thick of things in the second half, with the Spaniard setting up the second goal on a platter for Patrick Bamford.

Indeed, the season-opener was a reminder that Hernandez will need to play a key role once again this season if Leeds are to get over the promotion line.

2. Ben White’s impressive debut

Debates on how Leeds United would cope with the absence of Pontus Jansson at the heart of the defence have been raging in the media ever since the Swedish international switched to Brentford earlier in the summer.

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Well, those talks are expected to cool down now given that debutant Ben White showed in the 3-1 victory that he is certainly capable of filling in Jansson’s shoes at the back despite his obvious lack of experience.

The critics might still argue that it is just the start of the season but the 21-year-old Brighton loanee did put up a strong performance in his first game for the Whites.

Deployed at the heart of the backline alongside the experienced Liam Cooper, White showed plenty of composure on the ball and in all honesty, his passing was comparable to a central midfielder.

The youngster registered a total of 65 passes at an accuracy rate of 84.5%, including 6 successful long balls, 3 aerial duels, 1 tackle, 1 interception and 3 clearances, figures which are a testament to his fine start at Elland Road.

3. A confidence booster for Patrick Bamford

If there was anybody in Leeds’ ranks who needed a goal to regain confidence, it had to be Patrick Bamford.

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The former Middlesbrough man had netted only 9 goals in the Championship last season and never managed to nail down a regular starting role due to recurrent injuries, but with previous season’s top-scorer Kemar Roofe departing the club, Leeds desperately needed Bamford to deliver the goods this term.

And the elegant playmaking forward produced a fine performance up top in the 3-1 victory to begin his campaign on a positive note. His passing was slick, movement subtle, and he grabbed his scoring opportunity with both hands when Hernandez set it up for him with a fine piece of skill in the second half.

The fans will be hoping that this performance wasn’t a mere flash in the pan, and Bamford certainly needs to build on this start and make a habit of finding the net every week.

4. Bielsa’s persistence with his midfield trio

Bielsa, apparently, wasn’t too keen to experiment heavily with his team dynamics in the season-opener and the Argentine went into the game with his preferred 4-1-4-1 system.

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While the likes of Bamford, Hernandez and Harrison stole the show with their goals, central midfielders Mateusz Klich, Adam Forshaw and Kalvin Phillips were also equal to the task and made a key contribution in the victory. 

Despite a few moments of sloppiness, Phillips was an influential, robust and an authoritative presence in his deep role in the midfield as a shield for the rearguard.

The 23-year-old not only won possession back, but also retained the ball at his feet to set the tempo of the game and stamped his authority in the air. He also unleashed some wonderful long passes to turn defence into attack in the blink of an eye.

Klich and Forshaw, who operated in a more advanced role, also contributed equally to both the defence and the attack, also linking up very well with each other to carve out a few chances. In fact, it was Klich’s shot that led to Harrison’s goal in the second half.

5. A few question marks

While Leeds definitely have plenty of positives to take from a few individual performances and good team performance in their season-opener at Ashton Gate, Bielsa would probably have noted down that a few players at the back need to pull up their socks. And goalkeeper Kiko Casilla is certainly one of them.

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It would be unfair to say that the Spaniard was outrightly poor on Sunday but he never really looked in complete control of the proceedings inside his penalty area, with his improper decision making threatening to put the team in trouble on a number of occasions. 

Casilla made some good interventions but he sometimes came out of his zone and got nowhere close to the ball, signs which probably won’t go down too well with the manager. He was beaten at the near post for the goal he conceded, which isn’t a pleasant sight for any goalkeeper, although there was a slight deflection.

With Bailey Peacock-Farrell now out of the frame, Leeds will need the former Real Madrid star to raise his game and prove his worth between the sticks.

Casilla wasn’t the only one who showed some signs of early-season rustiness, as full-backs Stuart Dallas and Barry Douglas looked shaky on a number of occasions.

If their performance on Sunday was anything to go by, Bielsa would probably want the likes of Luke Ayling Ayling and Ezgjan Alioski to be available as soon as possible.

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Aston Villa

2018-19 EFL Championship Rewind: 5 most thrilling encounters

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2018-19 EFL Championship Rewind: 5 most thrilling encounters

Frantic see-saw promotion battles, brilliant individual performances, controversies on and off the field, edge-of-the-seat cliffhangers and goals galore – the 2018-19 season of the EFL Championship had everything in the locker for all sets of fans to rejoice, reminding one and all why the Championship is regarded as arguably the most competitive second-division league in the world. 

While the likes of Aston Villa, Norwich City and Sheffield United ended the campaign on a high and secured their berths in the Premier League for the 2019-20 season, others like Leeds United, Derby County and West Brom tasted the agony of narrowly missing out on promotion glory in the playoffs.

However, all that is nothing but history now and with the 2019-20 Championship season set to kick off this weekend, it is definitely worth taking a look at some of the most thrilling encounters from the previous campaign.

1. Aston Villa 2-3 Leeds United – 23rd December

Operating in the upper reaches of the table and very much the favourites in the race for automatic promotion at that time, Leeds United made the trip to Villa Park on 23rd December high on confidence, having won each of their last five encounters in the Championship.

Up against a Villa side with a vulnerable backline, Marcelo Bielsa’s side were very much the favourites to stretch their winning run to six games in a row. However, the Lions roared early on their home turf and caught the game by the scruff of the neck to stun the visitors.

John McGinn’s bursting run set up Tammy Abraham for a neat close-range finish just 5 minutes into the game before Conor Hourihane’s beautifully-placed low curler into the bottom corner made it 2-0 for Aston Villa at the 17th-minute mark.

Leeds had it all to do after the interval and the Yorkshire giants fought back with two quick-fire goals within a span of five second-half minutes to restore parity at 2-2.

Half-time substitute Jack Clarke scored his goal for the Whites before Pontus Jansson’s header just after the hour-mark set up a tense finish at Villa Park.

Both teams missed scoring opportunities and Leeds had a shout for a penalty turned down, although it was the visitors who had the last laugh.

Kemar Roofe took advantage of a sloppy headed clearance from Ahmed Elmohamady and fired home his 11th goal of the campaign to complete a remarkable comeback and claim all three points for Marcelo Bielsa’s side.

2. Leeds United 3-2 Blackburn Rovers – 26th December

If Leeds’ comeback victory against Aston Villa three days earlier was remarkable, then what followed at Elland Road on Boxing Day has to go down as simply awe-inspiring.

The Whites were on top of the standings in the Championship at that time and were pretty much the outright favourites to make it seven victories in a row against a struggling Blackburn side.

After a rather quiet first half-hour, it was Leeds United who took the lead, courtesy of an own goal from Rovers defender Derrick Williams, who sliced Jack Harrison’s cross into his own net.

That own goal, however, was cancelled out just two minutes into the second half, as Charlie Mulgrew converted from the penalty spot after being fouled inside the box by Leeds skipper Luke Ayling.

Blackburn Rovers looked to have won the game in the 90th minute when Mulgrew scored his second of the night from a long-range free-kick, putting Tony Mowbray’s side 2-1 up with just injury-time left to play. 

However, the tides turned completely in the dying moments of the game, as Kemar Roofe once again emerged as the saviour and scored twice in the first and fourth minute of injury-time to complete an awe-inspiring comeback for the second time in a row.

3. Norwich City 4-3 Millwall – 10th November

Norwich City were very much one of the favourites for automatic promotion at that time and hardly anybody would have expected Championship strugglers Millwall to travel to Carrow Road and give Daniel Farke’s side a real run for their money.

Well, the game turned out to be an absolute edge-of-the-seat thriller, with four goals in the last 16 minutes, including two in injury-time, sealing the game in Norwich’s favour.

Tom Elliott headed past Tim Krul midway through the first half to put Millwall in the driver’s seat before Teemu Pukki’s neat close-range finish early in the second half restored parity for the home side. 

Pukki then had a spot-kick saved after Onel Hernandez’s goal-bound effort was handled inside the box by Murray Wallace. However, the Canaries did take the lead midway through the second half, thanks to Moritz Leitner’s thunderous low drive into the Millwall net. 

There was more drama to unfold at Carrow Road though, as quick-fire goals from Ryan Leonard and Jed Wallace made it 3-2 in favour of the visitors.

Norwich, however, had the last laugh in a thrilling contest as Jordan Rhodes’ equaliser in the second minute of stoppage-time followed by Pukki’s winner in the 97th minute ensured that the Canaries bagged all three points and prevented an upset.

4. Norwich City 3-4 Derby County- 29th December

Norwich managed to edge past Millwall in a gripping game at home in November but Frank Lampard’s Derby County ensured that they finished the year on a high with an astonishing comeback win at Carrow Road. 

Norwich dominated the first 35 minutes and took a deserving 2-0 lead, courtesy of goals from Ben Godfrey and Teemu Pukki.

However, things changed dramatically in the last 10 minutes of the first half, as strikes from Chelsea loan duo Fikayo Tomori and Mason Mount ensured that the Rams went into the interval with the scores level at 2-2.

Pukki restored Norwich’s lead nine minutes from time just before the floodlights in one section of the ground went out, forcing both the teams to head for the tunnel. 

Taking advantage of the stoppage, Florian Jozefzoon levelled it up for Derby County in the 87th minute from a goalmouth scramble before Jack Marriott’s lovely dinked finish over Tim Krul sealed an exceptional comeback victory for Lampard’s side. 

5. Aston Villa 5-5 Nottingham Forest- 28th November

This has to go down as one of the best free-scoring games in the Championship for quite a while, although Villa could only manage a draw against a 10-man Nottingham Forest.  

Early goals from Lewis Grabban and Joao Carvalho handed the visitors a 2-0 advantage before Chelsea loanee Tammy Abraham restored parity with a quick-fire brace, ensuring that the first twenty minutes of the game produced as many as four goals. 

Matthew Cash made it 3-2 in favour of Forest but Abraham once again rose to the occasion to make it 3-3 before half-time.

Joe Lolley restored Forest’s lead for the second time in the game with a thunderous long-range effort but things went astray for Aitor Karanka’s side when Tobias Figueiredo was sent off. Abraham capitalised on the numerical advantage and headed it in from Jack Grealish’s cross to make it 4-4. 

Anwar El Ghazi’s curling effort gave Villa the lead for the first time on the night but Lewis Grabban ensured with a near-post finish that the scores finished at 5-5. 

Thus, an eventful night at Villa Park ultimately ended in a stalemate, with both teams keeping the fans on the edge of their seats with plenty of goals but neither doing enough to earn three points. 

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