There’s been a lot of handwringing over William Saliba’s injury and, to be fair, our injury list is reminiscent of the later years under Arsène, but it seems more and more as if Javi Gracia’s squad is suffering injuries at a rate that suggests they’d rather not make the long journey south to face us on Saturday. It also gives us a glimpse into how those who are available may set up against us.
Gracia will arrive without the services of Adam Forshaw, Stuart Dallas, and Tyler Adams, all of whom have been ruled out. He may also have to forgo Maximilian Wöber and Wilfried Gnonto. Heck, even Crysencio Summerville seemed eager to miss the match, getting pulled over and ticketed for driving 45kph in a 30kph zone. While we’ll be missing Elneny, Nketiah, Tomiyasu, and Saliba, we have enough depth to cope. It’s not quite the same story for Leeds, where the dropoff from the first-choice XI to the second string can be quite steep at certain positions.
Among Leeds’s injuries are arguably the club’s best defender, midfielder and forward being on the sidelines. Wöber hasn’t just been good on his own; he’s elevated the play around him, and Adams has been one of their players of the season. Without them, I’d expect Leeds to sit back with eight men behind the ball and hope to spring leading scorer Rodrigo down the right or get a set-piece ball into Bamford. It’s there where we may miss Saliba the most, not to mention we’ve been a bit vulnerable to set pieces lately.
Despite the fact that the reverse fixture gave us quite a scare, that was months ago. More-relevent is that Gracia has brought some stability since his arrival. That hasn’t done much to help them climb away from the relegation battle (they’re two points above West Ham, who have one game in hand), but they’ll likely look to build on that defensive stability and dare us to find a way through that thicket of eight defenders, not to mention Meslier, who usualy turns up against us.
At our end, we’ll probably see Holding deputise for Saliba (put a Diego Costa mask on Bamford and tell Holding it’s an FA Cup final) , but it’s also possible that Kiwior could slot in. Ahead of them, Partey may also be rested, with Jorginho coming up in his place. Given his close control, I’d predict that Trossard will start ahead of Jesus although the Brazilian will probably join the fray on the hour-mark. Even with our own injury woes, then, we should have the depth and versatility to get past our visitors.
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