Two coaches with mutual admiration for the other’s work meet in what is likely to be a highly entertaining Premier League encounter between Leeds and Manchester City at Elland Road (12:30pm ET Saturday).
Leeds’ manager Marcelo Bielsa was one of the first people Pep Guardiola sought out for advice when he decided to become a coach, and is someone he has continually praised since, from their encounters as respective coaches of Athletic and Barcelona through to the present day.
They both approach the game in a broadly similar way, pressing high out of possession and seeking to create overloads in attack to generate good-quality chances from short and sharp combination play and practiced movements. Two teams of that style facing off has the potential to produce one of the most exciting matches of the Premier League season.
Not that Leeds’ fixtures to date have been free of entertainment. Only a sloppily conceded penalty prevented them from grabbing a point in an eventual 3-4 defeat to champions Liverpool on the opening day, and they followed that with victory by the same scoreline at home to fellow newly promoted side Fulham a week later.
In that context, last weekend’s 1-0 win away to Sheffield United in a Yorkshire derby was relatively sedate. Leeds dominated territory and the shot count, but it was a fairly even encounter in terms of chance quality, with both sides generating a couple of good opportunities. The only difference was that Leeds took one of theirs, with Patrick Bamford heading home an 88th-minute cross to secure a second consecutive victory.
Both the mainstream U.S. bookmakers and the spread betting markets set mid table as Leeds’ likely finishing position ahead of their return to the top flight for the first time in 16 years. They came up as champions, having had the Championship’s best metrics for two seasons running, and between the money they have invested and continue to invest in new signings and the manner in which they’ve started the campaign that seems to be a realistic aim for them.
Man City began the campaign as the favorites to reclaim the Premier League title they lost to Liverpool last season following two consecutive triumphs in 2017-18 and 2018-19. A combination of three consecutive wins for Liverpool and Man City’s heavy defeat to Leicester has been sufficient to shift the market and relegate them to second favorites.
On the face of it, City were somewhat unfortunate to go down 2-5 at home to Leicester last weekend. Leicester mustered just four shots in open play to Manchester City’s 16, scored one of their goals from a long-range screamer, and won and successfully converted three penalties.
Yet while it is true that those events would be unlikely to repeat themselves if the game was replayed tomorrow, City were nevertheless pretty unimpressive at both ends of the pitch. They struggled to create good quality chances despite their heavy shot count and they were too easy to play through in defensive transitions.
The latter has been a recurring problem. In general, through last season and their two matches of this one to date, the first of which was a 3-1 win away to Wolverhampton Wanderers, Man City have played dominant football. Their underlying metrics were the best in the EPL last season, but they play in a way that does seem to leave themselves more open to the effects of opposition finishing variance than the more solidly constructed Liverpool.
Man City keep throwing money at the defence, with another £100-million plus laid down this off-season on two new central defenders and more to perhaps come on a new left-back before next week’s transfer deadline, but the problem arguably lies in the protective shield in front of them. Last season’s signing Rodri appears to lack the mobility to act as a like-for-like replacement for the Fernandinho of a couple of season’s ago.
The degree of fragility only increases when you remove prolific scorers Gabriel Jesus and Sergio Aguero from the equation, with both likely out injured until late October. Without them, they lack a proven penalty area presence capable of generating shots from high value positions when the collective system is unable to do so successfully.
With all of that said, Manchester City remain one of the very best sides in the Premier League, have more strengths than weaknesses and are still by far Liverpool’s most viable challengers this season. While they can be got at, they are also just as capable of turning round and thrashing someone by four or five goals or more if everything falls their way.
Leeds’ bold approach may actually be more to City’s liking than the defence and counter approach they often find themselves up against, but if Leeds come out on the front foot and get an early goal or two that could totally change the complexion of the game. In the circumstances, betting on a high-scoring encounter perhaps seems the best play here. So USAbetting’s Leeds vs Man City predictions and betting tips’ conclusion is:
- Bet on over 4.5 goals @ +205 (11/5) with Bovada.