Tonight Bolton Wanderers will travel to deepest, darkest Yorkshire to face off against high flying Leeds United in the first round of the Carabao Cup at Elland Road.
Leeds have gotten off to an incredible start to their Championship season as they’ve smashed two league favourites in relegated Stoke City and Frank Lampard managed Derby County, comfortably beating them 3-1 and 4-1, respectively.
The blistering start can no doubt be credited to new boss Marcelo Bielsa, the legendary Argentinian coach who performed wonders at Chile and Athletic Bilbao (to name a couple) and who Pep Guardiola and Mauricio Pochetinho (to name a couple) have credited as a key inspiration to their own careers. The football obsessed Bielsa (it is said that he has trained himself to watch two football matches at once with each eye, that he has a collection of thousands of match tapes and often sleeps in his office in preparation of matches) has already had a drastic effect on a bunch of players who only managed a meagre 13th place finish last season. Leeds now play a scintillating brand of pass-and-move football and are genuinely knocking the ball about like the peak days of Tikki-Takka at the Camp Nou. They throw copious amount of men forward in every attack and press with relentless vigour.
However, there is a trend in Bielsa’s career for his teams to start of a season in this explosive manner, blowing all other teams out of the water with their attacking verve. But a combination of a rigorous training regime, a high octane style of football and Bielsa’s combative personality has often seen the wheels of his teams come off by the midway point of a season and for everything to go very wrong. If there’s one club in England where this sounds appropriate, it’s Leeds United.
Yet the Super Whites have the fortune to playing them in while the going is good so it may well be a long, exhausting night indeed. And if you think that Bielsa, a coach of international renown who’s managed in the top leagues across Europe and World Cups, won’t know much about the lowly Championship – think again. As was reported in the Guardian, when the United owner and director of football travelled to Buenos Aires to interview Bielsa they too thought that. When they posed the question to Bielsa he replied by detailing the respective formations from when Bolton faced Burton Albion. So we’re clearly a team he’s got his eye on.
Leeds currently sit 2nd in the table, only a point behind Middlesbrough who’ve played a game more, fives places above Wanderers in seventh.
With the games coming quick and fast it seems as though both sides will be making lots of changes to their starting line ups, so new signings can make their first starts and begin to bed and give squad players minutes.
The Trotters will have a number of debutants on show at Eland Road as this weeks new recruits, Remi Mathews and Jonathon Grounds, look set to start. Exciting summer recruit Erhun Oztumer also looks in the frame to make his first appearance for the Whites are a stop-start pre-season after suffer a hip injury.
Defensive duo Jack Hobbs and Marc Wilson could also make their competitive debuts for the club, with perhaps Mark Little coming in at right back to give every player in the squad valuable game time.
It doesn’t appear that Sammy Ameobi will make the trip after his injury, as it would be folly to risk our most creative outlet with the weekend’s trip to Reading on the horizon but there is a chance that Clayton Donaldson could be another debutant after he missed the first two games of the season through injury.
Elsewhere youngsters Conor Hall and Joe Pritchard may be hopeful of getting an opportunity for some minutes themselves.
Leeds are also expected to make wholesale changes, though they have a squad with quite considerably more depth than ours. New signings Patrick Bamford, Jamal Blackman, Lewis Baker and Bolton lad Jack Harrison are all expected to make their first starts. Promising teenager Jamie Shackleton and big defenders Pontus Jannsson and Tom Pearce are also expected to come into the starting line up to give Bielsa’s undoubtedly already knackered first teamers a rest. Midfielders Stuart Dallas and Adam Forshaw are, however, ruled out through injury.
Unsurprisingly Leeds are clear favourites for this game.
Leeds: 8/13. Draw: 3/1. Bolton: 17/4.
This is a rather hard game to call as both teams will be making sweeping changes to their sides and it’s impossible to know if Leeds’ squad players are as comfortable or as suited to Bielsa’s style of play as it will be many of them’s first time playing it competitively. However, the players Leeds are bringing in include a £9m signing and promising youngsters from Chelsea and Manchester City, so they’ll probably still do us over.
Leeds 2-0 Bolton.
Wouldn’t really be the end of the world.