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Leeds vs. Tottenham Hotspur Preview: Surely it can’t happen AGAIN?

Tottenham Hotspur is giving us all whiplash. Can Spurs pick up a win and make their manager happy again?

Tottenham Hotspur v Leeds United - Premier League Photo by Charlotte Wilson/Offside/Offside via Getty Images

It’s been some week, hasn’t it? Spurs started off the week on a massive high by knocking off Manchester City in a 3-2 thriller, and opening up the league title race for Liverpool. They then followed those heroics up by laying a steaming pile at Turf Moor, losing 1-0 to Burnley in horrible weather and prompting Antonio Conte to, and this is putting it mildly, lose his cool to reporters.

Had Spurs managed to get a result at Burnley midweek, I think may Spurs fans would be a little more sanguine about heading to Elland Road tomorrow morning for their next match against Leeds United. Leeds are on a terrible run of form — similar to Spurs, actually — taking one point from their last five matches and getting outscored 17-5 along the way. This is a team Tottenham Hotspur should beat. It sure doesn’t feel that way.

Leeds (15th, 23pts) vs. Tottenham Hotspur (8th, 39pts)

Date: Saturday, February 26, 2022
Time: 7:30 am ET, 12:30 pm UK
Location: Elland Road, Leeds, England
TV: USA Network (USA), BT Sport 1 (UK)
Stream: NBCSports.com (USA)

There’s good news and bad news from Antonio Conte’s press conference. The good news is that he’s feeling better now after Wednesday’s loss at Burnley and has given his assurances that he’s not in danger of rage-quitting the club. So that’s good!

The bad news is that Rodrigo Bentancur might miss as long as three weeks after injuring his ankle on the slick turf at Turf Moor, while Oliver Skipp and Japhet Tanganga continue to miss time. That means, likely, a midfield of Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Harry Winks against a Marcelo Bielsa side that likes to press. Hold on to your butts.

Leeds have an injury crisis of their own, and will be without Patrick Bamford and Kalvin Phillips for this match. They will also be without defenders Liam Cooper and Leo Fuhr Hjelde.

Three themes

  1. You want another #narrative match? Well, you got one. Leeds are STRUGGLING right now, having taken one point from their last five matches, and just got blitzed by Liverpool 6-0 midweek. Spurs can beat Manchester City but can’t seem to do much about the rest of the league. Enter Dr. Tottenham? At least the weather isn’t expected to be a factor, with the forecast calling for partly cloudy skies and a high of 52ºF (11ºC).
  2. Despite the poor run of form, Spurs have dramatically improved under Conte. Since his appointment, Spurs have the third highest xG in the league, behind City and Liverpool, and are underperforming their Gs by a fair bit. Leeds, by contrast, has been a defensive dumpster fire, bottom of the table by xGA over the same period by a fair margin. On paper, Spurs should blow them out of the water. But we all watched that Burnley match...
  3. Mauricio Pochettino’s tactical style owes a lot to Leeds manager Marcelo Bielsa, and watching his Leeds team play is the closest thing we get to PocheBall in the Premier League right now. Expect Leeds to try and press Spurs, not only because that’s what they do but because Spurs have shown a weakness under Conte to that sort of high press. Leeds’ weakness comes in what happens after their opponents break their press — that’s where they’re weak, and they should get a number of quality chances if they can do that. Spurs will need to move the ball quickly through midfield and look for opportunities to rotate and switch play. If they wilt under pressure, it could be another long afternoon.