Leeds United v Chelsea: Old habits die hard for struggling hosts

Leeds United are in big trouble at the wrong end of the table, and Kevin Hatchard says Chelsea can't afford to show them any mercy on Wednesday...

Different manager, same old problems

Whether it's under Marcelo Bielsa or his replacement Jesse Marsch, this banged-up and patched-up Leeds United side just cannot seem to perform against the better sides in the division.

They were beaten 4-0 at home by Manchester City, and then were 2-0 down and a man down at Arsenal on Sunday inside the first 27 minutes. Yes, they only lost 2-1 at the Emirates in the end, but the defeat saw them tumble into the Premier League dropzone.

With games against Chelsea, Brighton and Brentford to come, it looks a tough task for Marsch and company to avoid a return to the second tier.

Leeds have the worst defensive record in the division, with a staggering 74 goals conceded in 35 games. If you look at matches against the Premier League's current top six, they have lost all 11. Across those 11 defeats, they have conceded 42 goals and scored just seven. Well over half the goals they have conceded this season in the top flight have comes in those clashes with top-six clubs.

We can talk about the incredible atmosphere at Elland Road all we want, and there is undoubtedly raucous and excellent support there, but Leeds have won just two of their last ten home games. Those victories were against fellow strugglers Burnley and Norwich, so going to Leeds is not exactly akin to an intimidating trip to Mordor (look it up or ask a friendly nerd).

Of course, there are mitigating circumstances here to some extent. Injuries have crippled the Whites throughout the campaign, and they are currently without star striker Patrick Bamford and the influential Stuart Dallas. Luke Ayling is suspended after his absurd challenge against Arsenal, and even if Liam Cooper returns to the back line, he is unlikely to be fully fit.

Blues don't lack motivation

At this stage of the season, thoughts can turn to summer holidays or summer transfers, but that certainly shouldn't be the case for Chelsea's players. Off the pitch it appears the ownership conundrum will be resolved (a deal has been agreed with a consortium led by LA Dodgers owner Todd Boehly), and with new owners will potentially come new ideas about which players to keep and which to bring in.

On Saturday, Chelsea will face a Liverpool side that is looking to beat them in the FA Cup final, just as they did in the League Cup final. The Blues have not yet secured a place in the top four, and the ticket to European football's VIP club that comes attached. This is not the time for players to slack off or become complacent.

Blues boss Thomas Tuchel accused everyone connected with Chelsea (including himself) of failing to execute the gameplan properly in Saturday's 2-2 draw with Wolves, a game that saw the visitors come back from 2-0 with two goals late on, including a Conor Coady strike in the 97th minute.

Chelsea have now won just two of their last seven league matches, and it's not beyond the realms of possibility that both Arsenal and Tottenham could catch the West London side in the race for the Champions League.

Romelu Lukaku will hope to retain his place after scoring twice against Wolves, but Tuchel is likely to make a number of changes ahead of Saturday's clash at Wembley. Ben Chilwell and Callum Hudson-Odoi are both still injured.

Chelsea are fair favourites

Despite their recent slump, this might be a perfect pick-me-up for Chelsea, who have the firepower to take Leeds apart. Chelsea have won 10 of their last 16 away matches in the Premier League, and they won the reverse fixture 3-2.

I'll use the Sportsbook's Bet Builder to back Chelsea to win and Over 2.5 Goals at 2.3. 17 of Leeds' last 21 PL games have featured at least three goals, and six of Chelsea's last eight away wins in the league have seen them score three goals or more.

Mason to chisel out a goal?

Mason Mount was left out entirely at the weekend, so there's a good chance he'll return to action for this one. He has 10 goals and nine assists in the Premier League this season, and he scored in the reverse fixture.

Using the Sportsbook's new Score or Assist market, you can back Mount to be involved in a goal at evens, and I think that's a good shout, as long as the England international starts.

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