Leeds hope to bounce back from a midweek mauling as Arsenal travel to Elland Road
After their 7-0 mauling at the hands of Manchester City in midweek, Leeds United return to Elland Road hoping to repair some of the damage done as in-form Arsenal travel to Yorkshire.
24 hours after Leeds were given a lesson at the Etihad, Arsenal scored one of their best results of the season, beating West Ham 2-0 at the Emirates to go fourth in the table, despite dropping captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang for a disciplinary breach.
That result further proved that things might be turning for the Gunners, with Emile Smith Rowe and Gabriel Martinelli stepping into the void left by Aubameyang, with the Gabon international unlikely to win his place back for the trip to face Leeds.
That is of course if this fixture even goes ahead. The new COVID variant is threatening to derail a large percentage of the weekend’s games, but as things stand, it’s more of a horrendous injury list than one dominated by any outbreaks in Leeds’ case.
The Whites have at least eight missing for the visit of Arsenal, with the only good news coming in the shape of Robin Koch potentially returning after months out with a pelvic injury.
Patrick Bamford, Kalvin Phillips, Liam Cooper, Rodrigo, Pascal Struijk, Jamie Shackleton and Daniel James all have problems and are not expected to make it, while Junior Firpo is suspended after picking up five yellow cards.
All that means Marcelo Bielsa will struggle to field a side anywhere near full strength, as Leeds struggle to pull away from the relegation zone. There has been rumblings of discontent among the fan base recently too, but the fact that the Argentine once confronted a group of angry Newell’s Old Boys ultras with a live grenade 20 years ago maybe makes a few people think twice about voicing any anger.
As for Arsenal, they’re just about as untouched by injuries as any other team in the league. They’ve only got three players missing, with the aforementioned Aubameyang unlikely to return, and Sead Kolasinac and Bernd Leno also out.
The Bosnian defender is struggling with a foot injury that won’t heal until January, and Leno has a groin injury that has kept him out of the last four squads, although is believed to be improving.
It’s safe to say that the Gunners have enjoyed the majority of the recent meetings between the sides, having not lost to Leeds since 2003. On that occasion, goals from Dennis Bergkamp and Thierry Henry weren’t enough, as Peter Reid’s side won at Highbury thanks to goals from Harry Kewell, Ian Harte and Mark Viduka. That season ended with Leeds finishing 15th, one place above the one they occupy heading into this one, and a position you feel most of their fans would take if offered it right now.
Leeds United take on Arsenal at Elland Road on December 18th. Kick-off is at 5.30pm.
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