Chelsea host Leeds United on matchday 26 of the Premier League as both teams are struggling in terms of form and performances.
The hosts have been in the limelight of criticism by the fans as the Blues have won just 3 of their last 17 games with pressure building on Graham Potter to turn their fortunes around. A 2-0 loss at the weekend against bitter London rivals Tottenham Hotspur all but ended the Blues’ hope of finishing in the top 4 as they now find themselves 14 points adrift with just 12 more games to go.
Chelsea board are still showing confidence in Potter and have given him an ultimatum of two “make or break” games against Leeds at the weekend and the crucial 2nd leg of the Champions League round of 16 against Borussia Dortmund wherein the Blues are trailing 1-0 and will need a spirited performance to turn the tie around at home.
Leeds United have also been struggling this season so far and sacked Jesse Marsch last month as there were no improvement in results. Javi Gracia has been appointed as the replacement and the former Watford coach had a great start to his Leeds career as he brought an end to their 10-game winless run in the league.
The Spaniard oversaw his side’s win against fellow relegation rivals Southampton 1-0 at the weekend which were 3 crucial points as they find themselves 1 point above the relegation zone. The Yorkshire club were knocked out of the FA cup midweek and failed to progress to the quarter-finals as Fulham won the game 2-0. The elimination from the FA cup could be a blessing in disguise for Gracia as he can rally his side to turn their complete focus towards the Premier League and improve their performances to stay up next season.
When & Where?
Date: 4th March 2023.
Time: 3:00 PM GMT.
Venue: Stamford Bridge.
Referee: Michael Oliver.
Assistants: Stuart Burt, Simon Bennett.
Fourth Official: David Coote.
VAR: Darren England.
Assistant VAR: Dan Cook.
Chelsea were hit with a major blow as veteran defender Thiago Silva had to be substituted in the first half for a knee injury at the weekend. The Brazilian has injured his knee ligaments and faces a lengthy spell of 6 weeks on the sidelines. He will join the likes of Edouard Mendy and Armando Broja in the treatment room and are not available for the game against Leeds.
Graham Potter received a huge injury boost though as duo Christian Pulisic and N’golo Kante have both trained with the squad this week having recovered from their long-term injuries and could get minutes at the weekend as they will have to build up their fitness. Cesar Azpilicueta is a doubt for the game after the Spaniard suffered a concussion against Southampton. January arrivals Noni Madueke and Mykhailo Mudryk are in line to start after being on the bench for the last two games.
Leeds United will be without the trio of Rodrigo, Stuart Dallas and Adam Forshaw as they are still nursing their injuries. Pascal Struijk and Luis Sinisterra are doubtful for the game and could face a late fitness test before travelling to London. Maximillian Wober was rested for the game against Fulham and could be back in the heart of the defence at the weekend.
Brenden Aaronsen, Patrick Bamford and Jack Harrison were all benched for the midweek FA Cup fixture and will be back in the starting XI with Wilfried Gnonto, Georginio Rutter and Crysencio Summerville making way for them. The trio of McKennie-Adams-Roca is expected to remain unchanged in the middle of the park as Garcia doesn’t have enough backup in that area due to injuries.
With his job on the line and the supporters losing faith in the team, Graham Potter will have to work his magic and get all 3 points in front of the home fans to win their trust back. His win percentage with the Blues ever since he took the job is a staggering 27.8% which is the lowest and the worst record of any Chelsea manager in the Premier League. Amidst all this, the board has still continued to back their man and have no intentions of sacking Potter though time seems to be running out for the 47-year-old.
The performance at the weekend was once again disappointing as the Blues were unable to create any chances and cause any significant threat to the Spurs’ defence. The attack looks disjointed as the 4-2-3-1 system is proving to be ineffective and a switch to a 3-at-the-back system looks like the only viable option. Potter deployed a 3 at the back during his initial days and went on an impeccable run of 9 games unbeaten in all competitions.
With Trevoh Chalobah, Wesley Fofana, Benoit Badiashile, Kalidou Koulibaly and Marc Cucurella all fully fit to play in the back 3 and the team needing defensive solidity, it looks like the best game plan for the Leeds game. It will also allow the attacking players have lesser defensive responsibilities and greater freedom in the final third which could improve their poor form in front of goal as they have scored just 6 goals in their last 15 games in all competitions.
Leeds will be in the hunt to complete a double over their opponents having beaten them 3-0 earlier at Elland Road. Javi Garcia and Co. will be facing a different Chelsea side this time, who are completely out of form, and are struggling to score. The Whites do not hold a great record against the Blues as their opponents have won 5 of their last 6 games at home against them. This time though with the scrutiny and pressure around the Blues squad, Leeds are capable of causing an upset and coming away with all 3 points to further boost their chances of steering clear of the relegation zone.
Chelsea predicted lineup vs Leeds United: Kepa, Chalobah, Fofana, Badiashile, Madueke, Zakaria, Enzo, Chilwell, Mudryk, Fofana, Sterling.
Leeds United predicted lineup vs Chelsea: Meslier, Firpo, Koch, Wober, Ayling, McKennie, Adams, Roca, Aaronsen, Bamford, Harrison.