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Crystal Palace 4 v 1 Leeds United
Barclays Premier League
Saturday, 7th November 2020 Kick-off 15:00
Match Preview: Crystal Palace v Leeds United - composure key for Whites to end capital struggles
Saturday, 7th Nov 2020 06:31 by Lucas Monk

After suffering a bruising home defeat to a Jamie Vardy-inspired Leicester City on Monday, Leeds United travel to Selhurst Park to do battle with Crystal Palace for the first time since 2013 (3pm kick-off).

Leeds United have made a promising return to English football’s top division thus far. Marcelo Bielsa’s men occupy 12th position in the table and have been competitive in every match they have played since their promotion from the Championship in July. That said, there is a major concern. At several junctures, United have looked especially vulnerable defensively. The 4-3 defeat to Liverpool at the start of the campaign springs to mind, as does the 1-0 victory away to Sheffield United, in which Ilian Meslier had to make two exquisite saves to help his side to the three points.

On Monday, a ruthless Leicester City outfit taught Leeds a harsh lesson. Defensive mistakes in the Championship go unpunished in a way that mistakes in the Premier League do not. Jamie Vardy in particular was at pains to make this point, as he tormented a bedraggled United rearguard that had no answer to his electric pace and dynamic movement. The final scoreline of 4-1 perhaps flattered the Foxes, and the game was highly competitive until Vardy, who had earlier had a hand in two Leicester goals, made it 3-1 to the visitors before Youri Tielemans netted his second from the penalty spot in added time - but Leeds were largely the architects of their own downfall. The clinical, counter-attacking visitors were good value for the victory.

In Crystal Palace, Leeds will face another side with a predilection for playing on the periphery. The Eagles defend in a low block and seek to make effective use of pace and trickery of Wilfried Zaha on the counter. However, many have accused Roy Hodgson’s side of being excessively dependent on the Ivorian for success. Indeed, Zaha has scored five of their eight league goals this season, and these have won them seven of their ten points this season. If United can tighten affairs up at the back and mark him into some sort of silence, they will stand a good chance of victory against a side who have registered the fewest shots of any team in the Premier League this season.

Team news: Rodrigo out, Raphinha doubt

Leeds will be without the cultured Rodrigo, who is self-isolating after testing positive for Covid-19.

Winger Raphinha, absent in Monday’s defeat, could again miss out as he continues to battle an ankle injury.

Tough-tackling midfielder Kalvin Phillips and Spanish defender Diego Llorente are both sidelined with injuries.

Crystal Palace will miss captain Luka Milivojevic, who was sent off at Wolves. James Tomkins will also miss out through injury, but defender Gary Cahill and striker Jordan Ayew are both available once again.

The managers' views:

United head coach Marcelo Bielsa:

"They’re [Crystal Palace] a team who has very important players in attack and a team who has a stable base.

“They have a distinct style of play that they don’t change, but they do improve.

“Like the majority of the teams in the division they have had some very good moments and also some not so good moments, but they are a team with experience.

“I sincerely respect Roy Hodgson a lot.

“I’m not the best person to have an opinion as I have only been here for two years, but I have the opinion that he’s a very valued member of the English community given the trajectory of his career and his behaviour.”

Palace manager Roy Hodgson:

"Obviously Marcelo is a man who’s had a lot of success since coming to Leeds and I think it was an inspired decision to take him on as manager because he’s got them back into the Premier League, which so many people have tried and not been able to do.

"Now of course he’s started extremely well in the Premier League - his teams play some outstandingly good games.

"I’ve never met him, unfortunately. Of course I’ve always known about him, but I’m looking forward to meeting him.

"He’s a person for whom I have very much respect and I’m impressed by the type of football Leeds are playing."

One to watch: Robin Koch (Leeds)

The German international had a torrid time of it on Monday evening as Jamie Vardy led him a merry dance throughout the match. Nonetheless, Koch has adjusted relatively well to English football since his move from Bundesliga stalwarts SC Freiburg, and he will be hopeful of producing a much better showing here. His doing so will be vital if Leeds are to contain Wilfried Zaha and leave South London with the three points.

The referee: Chris Kavanagh

Manchester-born Kavanagh has refereed four Premier League matches this season and shown 18 yellow cards. In March, prior to the nationwide lockdown, he caused quite a stir by issuing a red card to the Everton manager, Carlo Ancelotti, following a contentious VAR decision in a match against Manchester United. Ancelotti was later fined for confronting the referee.

Prediction: Crystal Palace 0-2 Leeds United

No team has had fewer shots this season than Crystal Palace. Besides Liverpool, no team has had more than Leeds United. This gives us an indication of what to expect from this match.

In all likelihood, Palace will be content to drop deep and attempt to hit United on the break. The pace and running of Wilfried Zaha will be crucial in this respect.

The key for Leeds is to take their chances when they come. They will get them, especially with the quantities of possession they will enjoy, but they need to take advantage of them.

It should be a fairly competitive contest, with Leeds 12th in the table and Palace directly below them, but Marcelo Bielsa’s charges have a good deal more going for them in the final third than the Eagles, and I believe this will see United head into the international break on the back of an elusive victory in the capital.

Photo: Action Images

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