With today’s results swinging in Leeds’ favour, the Whites will look to capitalise on their relegation rivals dropping points by taking the game to Bournemouth. Historically, Leeds United have had a great record against the south coast side, winning nine of their previous ten, according to the BBC.
However, in the context of this season, history means nothing. Bournemouth have impressively managed to pick up enough points to distance themselves from the relegation battle, for the time being. A win at the Vitality Stadium for Leeds would not only boost their chances of surviving, but it would also drag their opponents right back into the scrap.
Who could start?
Leeds United will look to take the game to Bournemouth; with the injury to Luis Sinisterra, surely Javi Gracia must consider starting the exciting Willy Gnonto. Leeds must attack with intent and energy, and players such as Gnonto and Summerville would accomplish that. While a point on the road might not be the end of the world, looking at Leeds’ run-in, the fixture really is a must-win if Leeds want a chance of staying in the top flight.
Bamford will be looking to put his missed opportunity behind him, and it is likely that Javi Gracia will start the striker, possibly opting for a partnership with Rodrigo, as he did against Leicester City. Leeds cannot afford to have slack periods as they had in the game against Leicester, where the Foxes could have easily taken the lead had it not been for VAR. Gracia’s side must look to control the tempo and rhythm of the game for the whole 90 minutes.
An ideal candidate to do this in the middle of the park could be Adam Forshaw. His tenacity and ball-winning abilities could be of great help as Leeds look to control the flow of the game. With crucial midfielder Tyler Adams almost certainly out for the rest of the season, Forshaw’s recent return to the side could benefit their survival hopes. While not as technically apt as Adams, he has a similar play style in the sense that his primary focus is winning the ball back during transitions. This is vital if Leeds United want to maintain a grip on the game, as it is important that they retain the ball as much as possible.
One potential flaw of Javi Gracia’s tactics recently could be the reluctance to make substitutes until it is far too late. In tomorrow’s clash with Bournemouth, the head coach must not be afraid to tweak the side, as time is running out for the side to pick up points. Leeds United have arguably the strongest bench they have had since their return to the Premier League, no longer having to populate the bench with primarily unproven youngsters. Gracia has a bench of talented players to call upon should he need them.
One of these players has to be Georginio Rutter – the French striker hasn’t been given much of a chance since Gracia took over, but now may be the time to throw caution to the wind and risk playing him. He could offer a dynamic different to that of Bamford or Rodrigo, and could cause problems for a Bournemouth side that have conceded 63 goals this season.
Leeds must be focused in defence too, having also conceded 63 goals so far this season. The back four cannot afford for any of their increasingly common lapses in concentration, and they must stay organised and composed. Max Wober is still a doubt, but Liam Cooper could be the man to offer that leadership at the back.
Leeds will be hoping to come away from tomorrow’s game with all three points, and it is vital that they do so in order to survive. A win wouldn’t guarantee safety, but it would be a big step in the right direction.