Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds side come into this game looking for their first win in three Championship games, and aware that the two-point gap between themselves and leaders Norwich can’t be allowed to grow much wider. A late, late equaliser (eleven minutes into time added on) in their weekend game with Middlesbrough showed their battling qualities, which they may need here, as Swansea are not going to let them have things all their own way.
For the Swans, any hope of an immediate return to the Premier League is now dependent on getting as many points as humanly possible in the next three months. As of this moment, Graham Potter’s men sit seven points outside the playoff spots; not an insurmountable gap, but in a crowded mid-table they can’t afford slip-ups. A battling win over Millwall at the weekend will have helped, but they’ll need to draw on all their energy to get anything here.
Leeds vs Swansea Prediction: Leeds 2-1 Swansea
Leeds wonderkid Jack Clarke fell ill during the weekend game at Middlesbrough and, pending the results of tests, will not be training or playing for the club. His teammates’ reaction to a concerning time – fighting until the final whistle and securing a crucial point – is testament to the team spirit Bielsa has forged among his squad. This spirit may well be called upon again and again between now and the end of the season, and a February midweek game is just the kind of situation that demands it. Any Graham Potter side will give a good account of themselves, but we feel Leeds should just about have this.
Our recommended tip: Leeds win, BTTS
If Leeds are promoted this season, there is a cracker of a book to be written about the nine months that got them there. Under Bielsa’s management they have at times been awesome to watch and, although the recent spying controversy seems to have left some people shaken, they are a side that doesn’t know when they’re beaten. Their attacking approach means that sometimes gaps are left at the back, but they can usually score enough for it not to matter. This feels like exactly that kind of game, and with Betway’s odds of 23/20, we think backing Leeds to win a thriller seems like a smart bet.
The reverse meeting between these sides came back in August. At that point it was a highly intriguing fixture between a veteran coaching guru in Bielsa, and an innovative apprentice in the form of Potter, whose methods turned Ostersunds into the biggest story in Swedish football. The game itself was a fascinating battle, which Swansea led twice through fine goals from Oli McBurnie. Equalisers from first Kemar Roofe and then Pablo Hernandez secured a point for Leeds, kept their unbeaten record going, and enhanced their promotion prospects.
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Players to watch: Kalvin Phillips & Oli McBurnie
At the base of Leeds’ midfield, Phillips is the player who brings it all together. Born and bred in the city where he now plays, there is a pleasingly continental feel to the way he plays, something his coach has enhanced this season. The 23-year-old grabbed the equaliser against Middlesbrough – his first goal of the season – but he’s more valuable to the club for the way he breaks up play and intelligently uses the ball. Should his side win promotion, it will be due in no small part to his mastery of the holding midfield role.
Like Phillips, McBurnie was born in Leeds and initially played youth football at the club. However, none of that stopped him firing home both his current side’s goals in the first meeting between the sides. McBurnie has 13 goals for the season, but his contribution goes beyond that. Comfortable running with the ball and happy to put in a defensive shift, the Scottish international has one of the best all-around games of all Championship strikers, and he’ll be key for Swansea in this match.