Leeds vs Leicester: Problems and possibilities of survival for both clubs assessed ahead of Premier League clash
Leeds and Leicester may not be in the Premier League relegation zone but their meeting on Tuesday night at Elland Road could have a huge bearing on which teams drop into the Championship at the end of the season.
The hosts are currently safe by just a point, Leicester only on goal difference. The situation for both clubs is perilous. Neither dares lose when they meet.
But how did these two sides end up in such a situation – and what are their prospects of getting out of it?
Ahead of the game – which you can follow on the Sky Sports website and app – we take a close look at both clubs, with Sky Sports News reporters Ben Ransom and Danyal Khan…
What has put Leeds and Leicester in trouble?
Ben Ransom: “Results haven’t been good enough at Leeds for the whole season and only once have they managed to win back-to-back Premier League games. Since the switch from Jesse March to Javi Gracia things have barely improved, and they’re conceding far too many goals. Only Bournemouth have conceded more Premier League goals so far this season, and the issue for Leeds is that they seem to be getting defensively worse.”
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Danyal Khan: “It’s hard to pinpoint one reason why Leicester have had a difficult season. When you rewind to the start, they had to sell another one of their best players in Wesley Fofana. Although they brought in Wout Faes as a replacement, it did not feel like that was enough to reinforce a squad that had been together for a while under Brendan Rodgers without any real key additions.
“They did look to address this in January with Harry Souttar, Tete and Victor Kristiansen but they all joined a squad that was already low on confidence and struggling to get a string of results together. This has led to the team making a flurry of individual mistakes in the last few months which has piled on the poor results – that’s why when Dean Smith came in, one of the first aspects he looked at was raising morale and bringing positivity back into these players.”
What impact has the latest results – Leeds’ loss at Fulham and Leicester’s win over Wolves – had on the mood and belief at both clubs?
Ben Ransom: “There’s no doubt the mood around the club has darkened in recent weeks, with the away end making their dissatisfaction clear towards the Leeds United board at Craven Cottage at the weekend. Consecutive hammerings at Elland Road have brought the situation to a head, and it was no surprise to hear Javi Gracia making a number of pleas for the home fans to give the players their wholehearted support against Leicester. He knows the players need them and the atmosphere could quickly turn if they don’t start the game well.”
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Danyal Khan: “The win against Wolves was absolutely huge. When Smith came in he would’ve undoubtedly looked at that game as the real start of his reign after the loss to Manchester City at the Etihad. I don’t think it was just the result that will help the squad, but also the way they did it. In the past month or so, individual mistakes had really let Leicester down, and although that happened again against Wolves rarely have we seen that fight-back ability from this side to turn things around.
“They also got the result without arguably two of their most effective players this season in James Maddison and Harvey Barnes – who are both expected to return against Leeds. The positivity Smith has preached since arriving looks like it’s really had an impact on the squad. “
How damaging would relegation be?
Ben Ransom: “Two seasons ago Elland Road was a sea of celebration, with Leeds finishing ninth in the Premier League having finally battled their way back after a 16-year absence. There was optimism and a feeling that this huge club had finally fought their way out of the doldrums. Last season’s narrow escape should have been the warning that their top-flight status was precarious, and this club more than any other knows how long it can take to get back.”
Danyal Khan: “As a club, relegation would be unthinkable. When you see how impressive their relatively new training ground is and stop to think they were Premier League champions just seven years ago, it would perhaps be the biggest shock of recent times if they were to go down.”
How big is this game in the context of the season and the run-in for Leeds and Leicester?
Ben Ransom: “Absolutely massive. With very little time to prepare for this game, it’s all going to be about mentality for the players, and if they can somehow find the resolve to turn around the poor run of form, the fans will very quickly get back on side.”
Danyal Khan: “I think the next seven days will really be decisive in Leicester’s Premier League status. They play Leeds on Tuesday evening then have another huge game against Everton on Monday Night Football. Having spoken to Smith at his news conference, you just sense the importance of wanting to follow up that Wolves win with another positive result. Their fixtures after Everton are not the most favorable with Newcastle and West Ham to come – so these next two games really will be key if they are to stay up.”
What is going to save them?
Ben Ransom: “Six points over the next two matches against their relegation rivals Leicester and Bournemouth will go a long way! The manager has to find a system that stops them conceding so many goals, so that the talented players they do possess at the other end of the pitch have the opportunity to impact results.”
Danyal Khan: “Caglar Soyuncu. Remember him? You thought I’d say James Maddison, didn’t you? Well, centre-back Soyuncu had been out in the cold for a long time under Rodgers but Smith has brought him back into the fold and started him against Wolves. Soyuncu was really impressive despite having not played many minutes this season. All of sudden, players who were underperforming or straight-up not involved under the previous manager can give this side a new lease of life.
“Soyuncu is a battle-tested, Premier League experienced centre-back – something this side have lacked this season with Jonny Evans being absent with injuries. We know Leicester have a good attacking line with Jamie Vardy, Harvey Barnes and Maddison but if they can shore up the defence, they’ll give themselves an even better chance to stay up.”
Follow Leeds vs Leicester on Tuesday with the Sky Sports live blog on the website and App and watch free highlights shortly after full-time; kick off 8pm
Leeds United’s remaining fixtures
April 25: Leicester City (H) – Premier League, kick-off 8pm
April 30: Bournemouth (A) – Premier League, kick-off 2pm
May 6: Manchester City (A) – Premier League, kick-off 3pm, live on Sky Sports
May 13: Newcastle (H) – Premier League, 3pm kick-off
May 21: West Ham (A) – Premier League, kick-off 1.30pm
May 28: Tottenham (H) – Premier League, kick-off 4.30pm
Leicester’s remaining fixtures
April 25: Leeds (H) – Premier League, kick-off 8pm
May 1: Everton (H) – Premier League, kick-off 8pm, live on Sky Sports
May 8: Fulham (A) – Premier League, 3pm kick-off
May 13: liverpool (H) – Premier League, 3pm kick-off
May 22: Newcastle (A) – Premier League, kick-off 8pm
May 28: West Ham (H) – Premier League, kick-off 4.30pm