Manchester City will be looking to remain in the driving seat for the Premier League title when they travel to Elland Road to face Leeds United on Saturday evening.
The Citizens came out on top in a seven-goal thriller against Real Madrid in the Champions League semi-finals in midweek, while the Whites played out a goalless draw away at Crystal Palace on Monday.
When Jesse Marsch took the reins from Marcelo Bielsa at Elland Road in February, Leeds were positioned in the relegation zone and hopes of clambering their way to safety seemed slim.
While demotion to the Championship still remains a possibility, fears of the drop have eased since Marsch’s arrival. The American started out with back-to-back league defeats against Leicester City and Aston Villa, but he has since made his mark with the Whites, accumulating 11 points during a five-game unbeaten run.
Leeds remain 16th in the Premier League table and five points clear of the bottom three, though Everton in 18th place still have one game in hand.
Marsch has notably tightened up what once was a leaky defence, with Leeds conceding only four goals in their last five games and keeping successive clean sheets in their last two matches against Watford and Crystal Palace, just their fourth and fifth shutouts in 2021-22.
Considering that they shipped 21 goals in their previous six matches, Leeds have made vast improvements defensively, but their backline will now face the “ultimate test” according to Marsch, when they come up against league leaders Man City, who thumped the Whites 7-0 earlier this season.
With Leeds to face the Citizens, Arsenal and Chelsea in their next three league games, this challenging run could be a defining moment in their season and any points picked up will be invaluable in their bid to avoid the drop.
The Whites are unbeaten in their last three home meetings against City, including a 1-1 draw last season, and a surprise victory on Saturday would see them move eight points clear of the relegation zone before Everton face Chelsea on Sunday.
“Football is a fantastic spectacle” – those were the words of Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola following their enthralling 4-3 victory at home against Real Madrid in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final on Tuesday.
Kevin De Bruyne, Gabriel Jesus, Phil Foden and Bernardo Silva were all on the scoresheet for the Citizens, but strikes from Los Blancos duo Karim Benzema (2) and Vinicius Junior – the former of whom dinking an ice-cool Panenka penalty beyond Ederson eight minutes from time – has kept the tie alive heading into next week’s second leg.
Despite victory, City supporters came away from the Etihad Stadium slightly aggrieved that their side had not scored more against the Spanish giants, after carving out a plethora of chances throughout the 90 minutes. Nevertheless, City remain on course to reach their second successive Champions League final.
Guardiola and co will now put their European efforts to one side as they turn their attention back to the Premier League title race. At the time of writing, City currently sit one point clear of Liverpool in second, though the Reds could momentarily climb to the summit if they were to beat Newcastle United in Saturday’s lunchtime kickoff, before the Citizens aim to jump back to the top five hours later.
After three successive Premier League home games, City travel to Elland Road boasting the best away record in the top flight this term, as they have put together a 15-game unbeaten run since losing 1-0 to Tottenham Hotspur on the opening day of the season.
No team in Europe’s top-five leagues have won more than Man City (25) so far this campaign, and another victory is required on Saturday against Leeds as they bid to win their fourth Premier League crown in five years.
Leeds United Premier League form:
Manchester City Premier League form:
Manchester City form (all competitions):
We say: Leeds United 1-3 Manchester City
Man City should expect a hostile atmosphere from the Elland Road faithful and a tougher test this time around against a resurgent Leeds side, who could play a significant role in both the title race and relegation battle if they were to claim all three points on Saturday.
However, the Citizens still seem too strong for the Whites and should have enough quality in their side to win comfortably, even if one or two star names are rotated.