Tottenham v Leeds: Spurs suited to Whites' adventurous approach
Jose Mourinho's faltering Tottenham take on Marcelo Bielsa's lively Leeds in Saturday's Premier League curtain-raiser. Mark O'Haire shares his favourite fancy...
Tottenham v Leeds
Saturday January 2, 12:30
Tottenham denied at the death
Tottenham were denied victory against Wolves last Sunday by a Romain Saiss header four minutes from time at Molineux. Jose Mourinho's men led for 85 minutes after Tanguy Ndombele had driven home a low 20-yard shot from Ben Davies' lay-off after just 57 seconds. But Spurs were made to pay for sitting on their lead late on in the Black Country.
Having taken an early advantage (and not for the first time this term), Tottenham retreated too far into their shell. Wolves admirably shackled Spurs' star duo Harry Kane and Son Heung-min, with neither getting a clean sight of goal, whilst the visitors' best two opportunities to add to the scoreline fell to Spanish defender Sergio Reguilon.
After the game, Mourinho said it was never his intention to defend the slender lead and instead questioned his players for not showing more ambition to go for more goals. The Spurs boss said, "Defending deep, that's not the intention. They know what I asked them at half-time, if they couldn't do better it's because they couldn't do better."
Leeds bounce back in style
Leeds silenced recent critics by following up their 6-2 defeat at Man Utd with back-to-back victories over Burnley (1-0) and then West Brom (5-0) in midweek. The Whites scored four goals in a rampant first-half display at The Hawthorns on Tuesday night, but were gifted the opening goal when Romaine Sawyers bizarrely passed into his own net from 25 yards.
From that point Marcelo Bielsa's men utterly dominated. Ezgjan Alioski's crisp drive and Jack Harrison's thumping close-range finish were followed by Rodrigo's deflected shot, effectively ending the encounter as a contest. Another swift attack ended in Raphinha cutting inside and curling beautifully into the top corner to complete the rout after the break.
Despite the swashbuckling display, Bielsa has warned his side must strive to perform more consistently in the Premier League after demonstrating all of their attacking flair. The Argentine said: "We have only been in this league for 16 games and there are still many challenges and many tests we have to pass before we can legitimately say we belong.
Whites fall short against league's elite
It's almost 17 years to the day since Tottenham and Leeds faced-off in Premier League action with Spurs enjoying a 1-0 success at Elland Road. The hosts have held the upper-hand in recent match-ups with the Whites, taking top honours in four of the duos past five league meetings, although Leeds were 2-1 victors in the most recent contest in the FA Cup in 2013.
Tottenham 1.87 were being talked up as genuine Premier League title challengers little more than a fortnight ago but Spurs' are closer to the bottom-half than the league leaders following a return of one win in six (W1-D2-L3). The hosts have registered W6-D5-L0 against sides below them in the standings, although home displays haven't always convinced.
Leeds 4.30 won seven of their 16 games in the Premier League this season, only six newly-promoted teams in the competition's history have picked up more victories at this stage of a season. However, the Whites tend to be overawed by the league's elite, shipping over 50% of their overall Expected Goals Against (xGA) to last season's top-six finishers (W0-D1-L4).
Leeds style should suit Spurs
Only five of Tottenham's 15 league tussles this term have featured Over 2.5 Goals 1.45 with five of seven home outings also producing fewer than two strikes. Jose Mourinho's men haven't notched more than two goals since mid-October in the Premier League, although the hosts should be presented with a few opportunities to impress on Saturday.
Stylistically, this showdown should suit Spurs. Leeds' all-action, man-to-man press has fallen down against the Premier League's leading lights and Tottenham's effectiveness in transitions is likely to lead towards plenty of goalmouth action, whilst United's 30-goal tally is the second-best return for a newly-promoted team in the competition's history.
With the goal lines already a little too short to support, I'm happy to keep things simple by supporting a Spurs win. The aforementioned evidence suggests Leeds' adventurous approach is likely to be picked apart by Tottenham's clinical forwards in the capital.
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