Chelsea v Leeds is a fixture entrenched in history and rivalry. This rivalry will be renewed in the Premier League this weekend when the Yorkshiremen visit Stamford Bridge.
As well as a rivalry between the two clubs, there’s a rivalry between the two managers. Frank Lampard’s time at Derby ended in play-off failure but not after he’d knocked out Leeds just months after the infamous spy-gate scandal.
There is no love lost between Lampard and Marcelo Bielsa. This should create a further layer of tension, although this fixture shouldn’t need it.
After Leeds’ sixteen-year hiatus from the Premier League, it seems fitting that Chelsea’s first match with fans is against an old foe.
Frank Lampard’s men head into the game in fantastic form. Fifteen without defeat in all competitions plus defensive solidity ensure confidence is sky-high.
Edouard Mendy’s impact has been phenomenal. No better was this proven than in the thumping 4-0 win over Sevilla. A fully-rotated back-four remained solid, calm and unbreakable with the Senegalese star behind them. Mendy’s aura of calm has lifted the mood of the entire defence. Thiago Silva and Kurt Zouma were left out of the victory in Seville and should return against Leeds.
In attack, Chelsea have been firing on all cylinders in recent weeks, besides last week’s stalemate with Tottenham. Kai Havertz excelled against Sevilla with an assist plus 91.2% pass completion. He is expected to return to the line-up in midfield as a player adept at breaking the heavy press that Bielsa’s Leeds commit to.
Speaking of attack, Olivier Giroud has catapulted himself into the front of Lampard’s mind. Giroud’s four-goal salvo, complete with a key pass and four aerial duels won, was a complete striker’s performance.
Taken off with six minutes to go, Giroud received a standing ovation from the entire Chelsea bench. Undoubtedly a top professional, his teammates have clear admiration for his professional and footballing qualities and it would be a surprise if Lampard doesn’t recognise this and reward him with a start on Saturday.
While Tammy Abraham’s form has been good, he missed chances against Spurs and is likely to miss out as a result of the Frenchman’s form.
Giroud is likely to be flanked by Timo Werner and Hakim Ziyech. Werner’s electric pace and Ziyech’s devilish crossing should complement Giroud’s aerial ability and hold-up quality. These qualities will be essential against a Leeds side who give up an average of 13.6 shots per game. The forwards will need to take their chances, since Leeds are a superb attacking unit.
Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds are the most high-octane, intense team in the Premier League. Leeds have committed more pressing actions than any team in the division, as well as making more tackles.
Their relentless pressing, committed using a predominately man-marking system, is unique and completely atypical of newly promoted teams. Leeds’ pressing is, arguably, their greatest weapon. Chelsea must be wary of Leeds’ pressing traps if they are to build their play successfully.
Individually, Patrick Bamford and Raphinha are the two Leeds players to be most wary of. Bamford was once a part of Chelsea’s infamous “loan army” however he has found the perfect coach in Bielsa. Seven goals and an assist in ten Premier League appearances for Bamford represents an outstanding start in the Premier League. He is sure to arrive at Stamford Bridge with a point to prove.
Meanwhile, Raphinha was Leeds’ standout player in their impressive victory over Everton. Four shots and two key passes highlight the influence of the winger signed from Rennes for £17m. He got the goal his lively performance warranted to win the game for his side. Bamford aside, Raphinha is establishing himself as Leeds’ most threatening attacker.
Despite Leeds’ threats, Chelsea are in fantastic form and should be good enough to win this game. It has been eight years since the sides met, in any competition.
The renewal of rivalry is an exciting proposition, particularly for the older generation of Chelsea fans. Meanwhile, the Lampard v Bielsa element ensures that Chelsea v Leeds is an eagerly anticipated fixture between two exciting sides.
Chelsea will hope for a repeat outcome of the 1970 FA Cup Final Replay, the game which cemented Chelsea v Leeds as the rivalry it remains today.