As we enter the last month of the current Premier League season, the battle to avoid relegation is just as intense as the battle at the summit of the Premier League table. Nineteenth & 20th positions look sewn up, with Watford and Norwich destined for Championship football next year. It’s the 18th place we are going to look at in this series.
Having assessed Everton & Burnley’s chances of staying up, the next club under the microscope is Leeds United.
Leeds is one of the best-supported clubs across the entire UK. And they once rubbed shoulders with the Premier League elite, even having a five-year stretch of appearing in UEFA competitions. The highlight of that stretch was a Champions League semi-final appearance against Valencia in the 2000/01 season. Of course, that was a long time ago. The Whites were relegated from the Premier League in 2003/04 and did not return until the 2020/21 season under the tutelage of Marco Bielsa.
Leeds is another side that hit the panic button this season.
Albeit in a more timely fashion than Burnley did. Leeds sacked revered Argentine Marco Bielsa from the Yorkshire club back in February following a 4-0 thrashing at the hands of Tottenham Hotspur.
It was a decision that was not taken lightly. Everyone associated with Leeds adored Bielsa, so his dismissal was of a shock, even when you consider, in his last month, Bielsa oversaw a side that broke the record for most Premier League goals conceded in a month. The wily Argentine left Leeds sitting on 23 points from twenty-six matches. Their record stood at five wins, 8 draws, and 13 losses.
Almost immediately after the emotional departure of Marcelo Bielsa, Jesse Marsch was appointed. The American had spent most of his career under the Red bull umbrella, sitting in the dugout for NY Red Bulls, along with RB Salzburg & RB Leipzig. Despite his pedigree, the dubious British media forced him to reject Ted Lasso comparisons.
Marsch promised to let the work do the talking.
There was a noticeable improvement from a performance standpoint in his first fixture in the dugout for Leeds against Leicester. Leicester won 1-0, but Leeds was definitely unlucky to get nothing from that match. There was further pain as just a week later, Aston Villa trounced them 3-0. Despite the change in manager, it seemed the sophomore slump was going to get the best of Leeds United.
United finally got a win on the board for the first time in the Marsch era against lowly Norwich City. A 3-2 victory over high-flying Wolverhampton closely followed that up.
The results kept coming, with a win and a draw following those two victories. A 0-0 draw with Crystal Palace in The Peacocks’ most recent fixture, means they haven’t tasted defeat since the 11th of March. Leeds currently sits in 16th place, three points ahead of Burnley on 34 points.
The Run Home
Now we have set the stage. Let’s look at Leeds remaining fixtures and see if we can gauge how many points Jesse Marsch’s men might expect to finish on come the 23rd of May.
Vs Man City (H)
In April 2021, Leeds shocked the league when Stuart Dallas scored a 91st-minute winner for The Whites at Etihad Stadium. So that should give them some confidence. But then you have to remember Manchester City won the reverse fixture this season 7-0. So that gives me no confidence to pick another shock result here.
Victory for Man City 5-0
Vs Arsenal (A)
A trip to the Emirates comes hot on the heels of the clash with Manchester City. Leeds has never had an outstanding record against the Gunners. United has only defeated Arsenal in league football three times this millennium. I don’t see them adding to that tally here.
Vs Chelsea (H)
A hellish run of three matches ends with the Yorkshire club hosting West London giants Chelsea. Believe it or not, Leeds has a worse record against Chelsea than they do Arsenal. They have only defeated The Pensioners twice this millennium.
A third loss in a row beckons for Leeds.
Vs Brighton (H)
Despite having not beaten Brighton in a league fixture since the pair were in the Championship in 2017, a result is required here. The Seagulls hosted a boring 0-0 draw between the two sides back in November. Tension will be high at Elland Road.
And I think Jesse Marsch and his men have enough about them to eke out a victory here.
1-0 to Leeds
Vs Brentford (A)
Brentford will host Leeds on Championship Sunday. If my predictions are accurate, Leeds will enter this fixture at 37 points. Their ledger will read nine wins, 10 draws, and eighteen losses. A point or three will be required to avoid certain relegation.
Brentford and Leeds played out an entertaining 2-2 draw, back in September at Elland Road. The Bees and The Peacocks have had an intense rivalry in recent seasons. Both sides have 3 wins and there have been five draws in league fixtures since 2016. Unfortunately for Leeds, Brentford is in some tremendous form and I expect them to finish the season the way they started it.
I pick a 2-0 victory for The Bees.
So if my crystal ball has not deceived me, and my predictions are spot on, we will see Leeds finish the season on 37 points.
With a ledger that reads 9 wins, 10 draws, and nineteen losses. That record is good enough to avoid relegation in all but one season since 2014/15. The odd one out is the 2015/16 season, where Newcastle was relegated with the same points tally.
And if you have been following this series, you know it is one point less than I predicted Burnley and the same amount of points I predicted Everton to finish on.
That means that relegation will come down to goal difference. And I am sorry Leeds fans. That means I am predicting your side for the drop.
Will I be wrong? Can Leeds survive the drop this season? Only time will tell. One thing is for sure, there’s a legion of Leeds supporters hoping that I am wrong.
Stuart Kavanagh is an up-and-coming sports journalist from Melbourne, Australia. Along with being the owner of the sports and entertainment website thepyrrhic.com, he is also the co-host of the ‘After Extra Time’ podcast. Football mad, he is always down for debate and discussion at @stueyissickofit on Twitter.
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