Preview: Chelsea vs. Leeds United
Chelsea will seek to ease the pressure on Graham Potter and end their six-game winless run when they welcome relegation-threatened Leeds United to Stamford Bridge in the Premier League on Saturday.
The two teams have endured similar runs of form since the turn of the year, with the Blues winning just one of their last nine top-flight matches and the Whites picking up maximum points in only one of their last eight.
Following a disastrous run of just three wins in his last 17 games in charge, Graham Potter reportedly faces two make-or-break fixtures to save his job as Chelsea manager, with Saturday’s clash against Leeds followed three days later by a crucial Champions League last-16 second-leg tie with Borussia Dortmund.
Remarkably, Manchester City have won more games involving Chelsea (three) than Chelsea themselves (two) over the last three months, while February was a month to forget for the West Londoners, who failed to win any of their five matches across all competitions, with Joao Felix scoring their only goal in a 1-1 draw at West Ham United.
Indeed, goals have been hard to come by for the Blues this season, scoring just six times in their last 15 games in all tournaments since November 6, which is the fewest of any team in England’s top-four divisions – Manchester United, meanwhile, have scored 50 goals in the same period with Marcus Rashford netting 18 of those.
After losing 2-0 to London rivals Tottenham Hotspur last weekend, Chelsea fans are rightly losing their patience and the club’s fortunes must turn around quickly if they wish to keep their slim chances of securing a top-four spot alive. The Blues are languishing in 10th place at present and 14 points adrift of Spurs in fourth with a game in hand.
Potter will hope that his side can significantly improve on their last home encounter with relegation strugglers, after losing 1-0 to basement club Southampton two weeks ago – their ninth Premier League defeat of the season.
Chelsea suffered a disappointing 3-0 defeat away at Leeds back in August prior to Potter’s arrival, but a run of five Premier League home wins in their last six against the Whites bodes well ahead of Saturday’s contest.
After making the perfect start to his managerial reign with a 1-0 home win over Southampton last weekend, Javi Gracia and Leeds were condemned to a 2-0 defeat in the FA Cup fifth round away against Fulham on Tuesday night.
Hopes of reaching their first FA Cup quarter-final for 20 years were ended by strikes either side of half time from Joao Palhinha and Manor Solomon, and while a cup run would have been welcomed by the Elland Road faithful, Gracia and co can now focus fully on their quest for Premier League survival.
Leeds enter Saturday’s encounter with Chelsea sitting just one point clear of the relegation zone in 17th place following their much-needed victory against Southampton, which ended a 10-game winless run in the Premier League.
The West Yorkshire outfit have picked up the joint-fewest points (six) on the road in the top flight so far this season, with their only win in 12 away league matches against Liverpool at Anfield at the end of October.
However, Gracia will fancy his chances of leading Leeds to victory over Chelsea in his second league game in charge having previously guided Watford to a 4-1 success against the Blues in his second match as head coach of the Hornets in February 2018. The Spaniard is looking to become the first Whites manager to win his opening two league games in charge since Terry Venables back in August 2002.
Brenden Aaronson, Rodrigo and Jack Harrison were all on the scoresheet when Leeds beat Chelsea without reply earlier this season, and another victory on Saturday would see them complete the league double over the Blues for the first time since the 1991-92 campaign.
Chelsea Premier League form:
Chelsea form (all competitions):
Leeds United Premier League form:
Leeds United form (all competitions):
We say: Chelsea 1-1 Leeds United
Every game will be regarded as a must-win for both Chelsea and Leeds, including Saturday’s contest, as they bid to end the current campaign on a high and reach their respective targets.
Predicting a win for either side has been difficult over the last few months, and although the Blues will be considered as favourites to come out on top at Stamford Bridge, a tight affair and a share of the spoils could be on the cards this weekend.