Leeds United will resume their Premier League duties on Wednesday evening when they play hosts to Manchester City at Elland Road.
The Whites headed into the World Cup break off the back of a thrilling 4-3 loss to Tottenham, leaving them dangling just two places above the drop zone in 15th place. Man City, on the other hand, are five points adrift of the table-topping Arsenal and went into the World Cup hiatus off the back of a 2-1 shock loss to Brentford at the Etihad Stadium.
The Cityzens returned to competitive action last week, beating Liverpool 3-2 in the EFL Cup fourth round. With two teams at the extreme ends of the table, let us take a look at the key battles that could define the result of the game in west Yorkshire.
#Marc Roca vs Kevin de Bruyne
Leeds United boss Jesse Marsch has to make several big calls ahead of the game as he is sweating with a lengthy injury list and several major doubts within his squad. With Tyler Adams suspended and Mateusz Klich doubtful, the onus of anchoring Leeds’ midfield will fall on the shoulders of Marc Roca.
Roca has enjoyed a good start to life at Elland Road and has been a mainstay in Marsch’s side. With Leeds aiming to win the ball higher up the pitch, the Spaniard could find himself in advanced roles at times. However, he will be tasked to keep Kevin de Bruyne in check.
After a poor World Cup campaign that saw Belgium knocked out in the group stages, De Bruyne enjoyed a superb return to competitive action for Man City last week when he produced a scintillating display against Liverpool. Due to his vision, creativity, energy and goal-scoring, the Belgian is a world-class midfielder—someone Roca must stop to increase Leeds’ chances of winning the contest.
#Erling Haaland vs Leeds United centre-backs
It took only 10 minutes for Erling Haaland to return to scoring ways in Man City’s EFL Cup fourth-round fixture with Liverpool.
Refreshed and raring to go again, the Norwegian will be licking his lips at the prospect of facing a defensively vulnerable Leeds side. Standing in front of Haaland will be Liam Cooper and Robin Koch, who are expected to form the heart of the hosts’ defence.
Given Haaland’s predatory instincts in the box and physicality, the duo of Cooper and Koch have to be at their best to stop the Man City star. The winner of the battle between attack and defence could end up dictating who wins the match.
#Rodrigo vs Aymeric Laporte
Rodrigo is expected to be fit in time to face Man City, which should come as a big boost for Jesse Marsch.
With nine goals in 13 league games, Rodrigo is Leeds’ top scorer. He has led the line brilliantly this season, whilst combining well with the likes of Jack Harrison and Brendon Aaronson. Rodrigo’s most likely opponent will be Aymeric Laporte, who is expected to start in central defence for Man City.
Composed on the ball and a good reader of the game, Laporte is arguably City’s best defender and he will have to take extra responsibility for marshalling the backline following Ruben Dias’ injury. As Rodrigo had a fine first half of the season, Laporte might have a job on his hands keeping the Spanish forward quiet.