El Loco Bielsa's Leeds United took the top flight by storm last season but it has been a much tougher start this time round. United ended the 2020/21 campaign, their first back in the top flight since the mid-2000s, in ninth, securing more points and scoring more goals than any other promoted side for 20 years.
After such a strong season it was perhaps no surprise that Leeds didn't do much business in the summer, Daniel James (Manchester United), Junior Firpo (Barcelona), and Jack Harrison (Manchester City) their only real additions. However, that wasn't to count on injury issues which have seen Kalvin Phillips, Luke Ayling, Patrick Bamford (pictured above), and others, all miss time so far.
It took United until October to register three points in the league, that coming thanks to a 1-0 win over Watford. While they've only lost five times this season, the same number as fifth-placed Arsenal, Bielsa's side do only have three wins to their name, most-recently thanks to Raphinha's (pictured below) injury-time penalty against Crystal Palace in midweek.
For such a free-scoring side last season, Leeds, without Bamford, have lacked goals this time round. They've only netted more than once on two occasions all season, against Everton and Norwich, with only Norwich and Wolverhampton Wanderers netting fewer than United's 13, that despite Leeds averaging the fourth most shots per game in the top flight.
This season has also been one of fine margins for the Elland Road outfit, all but two of their games have been decided by one goal or fewer in either direction.
When asked for Hot Off The Press, The Athletic's Phil Hay, said: "If Brentford go two up top, he will go three at the back. He has this strategy whereby, if you have one up top, he has two centre-backs in a four and if you play two up, he plays a back three. It will be a 3-3-1-3 system, which he sort of invented way back at Newell’s in the early 90s. Personally – and I do feel the stats back this up - I never feel that Leeds look as comfortable in the 3-3-1-3 as they do in a 4-1-4-1, which is the other system that he uses, but they have been doing it long enough now to know what it is about and to understand it. So unless there is a switch from Thomas Frank, I think it will be that system"
It is as you were for Brentford from Thursday night with Zanka, Tariqe Fosu, Kris Ajer (all hamstring), Josh Dasilva (hip), Julian Jeanvier and David Raya (both knee) on the absentee list. Speaking on Friday, Thomas Frank indicated that Yoane Wissa, Mathias Jensen, and Shandon Baptiste are all closing in on being fit enough to start.
Leeds United should get a boost this weekend with the return of last season's top scorer Patrick Bamford and Luke Ayling from long-term injuries. Pascal Struijk is also likely to be fit meaning Robin Koch (groin) is their only absentee.
- Brentford are unbeaten in their last six away league matches against Yorkshire sides (W4 D2), last having a longer run without defeat (eight matches) in the county between 2007 and 2011.
- This is the first top-flight meeting between Leeds United and Brentford since April 1947, with the Bees winning 2-1 at Elland Road. Both sides were relegated at the end of the that campaign.
- Leeds have lost just one of their last 14 home league meetings with Brentford (W7 D6), going down 1-0 in the Championship in February 2015.
- Brentford have not conceded more than once in any of their 14 league encounters with Leeds in the 21st century (nine conceded in total), last doing so in a 4-0 defeat in March 1954.
A visionary coach, Marcello Bielsa has been bringing his brand of controlled chaos to football since the 1990s.
A defender for Newell's Old Boys, Instituto and Argentino de Rosario between 1975 and 1980, Bielsa retired aged 25 to focus on coaching. He spent a decade as a youth coach at Old Boys before stepping up to the Manager's chair in 1990. He won two Argentine titles and reached a Copa Libertadores final during his two years in charge. A brief spell in Mexico was followed by a return to Argentina in 1997 to manage Vélez Sarsfield, winning them a league title.
Bielsa rose to prominence as an international manager. He managed the Argentina national side between 1998 and 2004, getting to the 2002 World Cup and then winning Olympic gold in his final year. He took over the Chile national team in 2007. They underwent some big changes, qualifying for the 2010 World Cup for the first time in two campaigns, reaching the Last 16 before losing to Brazil.
He returned to club football with Athletic Bilbao, taking them to finals of the Copa del Rey and the UEFA Europa League. He then moved to Marseille, Lazio and Lille before arriving at Leeds in 2018, ending United's long wait for a return to the Premier League with promotion in 2020.
THE OPPOSITION VIEW
Marcello Bielsa told leedsunited.com: "Every fixture is an opportunity to balance our numbers. Our objective is that the intensity is always something that identifies us.
“So far, Brentford have shown to be a different team in the Premier League. The most significant thing is the amount of elements they attack with and the management they have of the ball in all the sectors of the pitch.
“Anyone who has seen Brentford play this season, can see they attack with six players and they always want to keep the ball. That’s not common in any league.”
Referee: David Coote
Assistant Referees: Nick Hopton and James Mainwaring
Fourth Official: Michael Sailsbury
VAR: Lee Mason
Assistant VAR: Darren Cann
Leeds United 2021/22
169 fouls – Second most in Premier League
36 yellow cards – Most in Premier League
1 red card – Third-most in Premier League
COVID-19 certification spot checks will be in place at Elland Road on Sunday. The home club requests supporters attending matches at Elland Road arrive early due to the COVID-19 certification spot checks and security searches that will be taking place at entry points, as requested in the Club’s Supporter Code of Conduct.
HOW TO FOLLOW
Tomorrow's game is not being shown live in the UK. Fans around the world, can click here to see if the game is on where you are.
Domestic fans can join Mark Burridge, Ben Burgess, and Isaiah Rankin for live Bees Player Commentary.