The 2021/22 season couldn’t have got off to a worse start for Leeds United.
Marcelo Bielsa’s men travelled to Old Trafford to take on bitter rivals Manchester United, aiming to avoid another 6-2 hammering like the year before. Just the 5-1 shellacking this time round.
But these things can happen to Leeds and their brave brand of Bielsa-ball, and you should be fearing for the emotional well-being of their next opponent off the back of such a poor result. They’ll be out for blood.
Back at Elland Road and in front of a packed-out crowd for the first time in 18 months, the Whites welcome Everton to Yorkshire, with the intention of banishing their Old Trafford demons and collecting their first three points of the season.
But which players should Bielsa pick for this important clash?
Illan Meslier (GK) – It’s never easy for a goalkeeper to bounce back from a hammering, but Meslier proved he’s a top keeper last year, and he’ll be primed to set the record straight.
Luke Ayling (RB) – It was Ayling’s goal that brought Leeds level against Man Utd, but not a lot else went well for the full-back. He shouldn’t face as many problems next time out.
Robin Koch (CB) – The German centre-back had a bit of a stinker playing in front of the defence, but he should be reinstated into the backline for this clash, ahead of the equally poor Pascal Struijk.
Liam Cooper (CB) – A partnership with Struijk has never quite gelled, and Cooper looks far more comfortable next to Koch. A much more complementary pairing.
Junior Firpo (LB) – The former Barcelona man came off the bench to make his debut against the Red Devils, and he could well start at left-back against the Toffees.
Mateusz Klich (CM) – He did not enjoy his afternoon at Old Trafford, but Klich will be back in his comfort zone of Elland Road and the raucous home crowd on Saturday.
Kalvin Phillips (CM) – This man was badly missed on the opening weekend. Leeds’ midfield was completely overrun by Man Utd, and Bielsa will be hoping to deploy talisman Phillips to stop the Toffees.
Stuart Dallas (CM) – He started at left-back against the Red Devils, but Dallas can do a job in midfield, too. The versatile star bring plenty of energy and running to the centre of the pitch.
Raphinha (RW) – It was a quiet afternoon in Manchester for Raphinha, and Leeds supporters will want to see more from the Brazilian star. When he plays well, the Whites tend to win.
Patrick Bamford (ST) – Yet to kick off his goalscoring this campaign, but it shouldn’t take him too long. Bamford will fancy his chances against this Everton backline.
Jack Harrison (LW) – An underrated star in Leeds’ system, Harrison is a dangerous weapon when he’s in the mood. Everton will have to keep a close eye on him.