Opposition Opinion: Spurs v Leeds

This week we caught up with Jack who runs Leeds fan site, Through it all together – below are his thoughts going into tomorrow’s Premier League match-up at White Hart Lane.

You miss out on things when you’re outside the Premier League for 16 years. Seeing world-class players, being on Match of the Day, and in Leeds’ case – facing Jose Mourinho.

Mourinho has never faced Leeds and it feels like an important part of our return that we face one of most renowned managers in Premier League history – However, I don’t think the signs bode well for our trip down to London.

Leeds have a terrible record in the capital, our last win being 3-1 at Loftus Road against QPR in December 2017. We have a record of two draws and 11 defeats since that match. From a fans’ perspective this does seem to be more of a superstitious thing to focus on rather than a tactical one, but the drop off in Leeds’ performances has been stark when in the capital.

The tactical worry is the way that “a Jose Mourinho team” sets up against “a Marcelo Bielsa team”. Leeds have been known to struggle against a team that is willing to sit a bit deeper (not necessarily parking the bus) and allow Leeds to have possession, before counter attacking when we inevitably leave space to do so. This problem is exacerbated if the team we are facing has real quality up front, particularly if those forwards are quick. Spurs have a lot of quality in this regard, the thought of Son Heung-Min and Harry Kane terrifies me.

Although Jose Mourinho has not faced Leeds before he has faced Marcelo Bielsa on four occasions, with the Portuguese manager coming out with four wins and a combined score of a 15-2. From a Leeds perspective that is a scary average of a 3.75 – 0.5 scoreline. I didn’t realise the record was this bad until I started writing this, and I was worried before finding out.

Although the overall shape of the match will probably involve Leeds having a lot of the ball regardless of the starting formations – it is hard to be specific about it as Tottenham have switched between a back three and a back four this season, and Leeds will play a different formation depending on which is chosen. Whether Son and Kane play as a front two, or Kane is a lone striker with Son on the left of a 4-2-3-1 will also make a difference. Leeds will play a back three against two strikers, a back four against a lone striker.

I think Spurs playing a 4-2-3-1 is the most likely but Leeds will go man for man all over the pitch regardless. This should excite Spurs fans as, as much as I love our team, Spurs have more quality all over the pitch and should be able to win most of those one-on-one duels. My main fear (Son and Kane aside) is in the middle of midfield. If Mourinho picks Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Moussa Sissoko as the double pivot, they have many similar qualities to Fred and Scott McTominay, who completely destroyed us at Old Trafford. Leeds will probably have a bit more pace in CM than they did that day, with Jamie Shackleton likely to start in place of an injured Mateusz Klich, Rodrigo and Shackleton vs Hojbjerg and Sissoko is a duel which I cannot see Leeds winning.

The battle out wide will be very interesting. Sergio Reguilon and Serge Aurier both like to push on, if given permission to, and that could leave a lot of space for Raphinha and Jack Harrison to exploit. However, Reguilon v Raphinha could also be a big problem for Leeds defensively, as Raphinha isn’t the best or the most disciplined at chasing the opposition wing-back when they come forward – Harrison is better in this regard.

Leeds have three international centre-backs at the club and all three are out injured. This has caused fewer problems than expected as the centre-back pairing of Luke Ayling and Pascal Struijk have deputised excellently, but facing Harry Kane is a big step up from facing Chris Wood and Karlan Grant. If Son joins in a front two, then Kalvin Phillips will drop between them to play as a third centre-back. Otherwise Phillips will play against the most advanced midfielder, if that is Tanguy Ndombele that could be a very interesting duel.

With the form he is in, I think Patrick Bamford can get some joy against Spurs centre-backs but it depends if we can get him the service – I also think Spurs have a big advantage at set-pieces, as do most teams, we are bad at set-pieces.

The majority of teams that have had good results against Leeds have had to record their highest running stats of the season to do so, so for this match the postponement of the Fulham game may well be advantageous to Spurs. Obviously, that is far less important than making sure people are ok, but it is a factor.

In truth this is a season where any finishing position for Leeds that keeps us in the division is a good season so a trip to Spurs is not going to be make or break for us, but for Spurs it is a match they will feel they should win. Anything we get is a bonus from this one, but we will go out and attack as we do in every game, I love us being coached by Marcelo Bielsa.

Prediction: Spurs 3 – 1 Leeds