Leeds United vs Fulham
Two newly promoted clubs clashing in the Premier League early on in the season and vying to get their first points on the board.
To me, that all points to an entertaining contest.
However, while both sides lost their openers last weekend, the difference in performance was telling.
Fulham surrendered rather meekly at home to FA Cup winners Arsenal, while Leeds United pushed league champions, Liverpool, all the way at Anfield.
Based on those two showings, Leeds start as firm favourites ahead of this clash.
One man who will be keen to make his mark in a rather more positive fashion is record signing Rodrigo whose cameo as a substitute last weekend resulted in him conceding the match-winning penalty which cost the visitors a point.
He will likely start from the outset in this one as Leeds seek their first top-flight win for 16 years.
Another defeat for Fulham will only further cement them as one of the favourites for the drop, even with the new campaign in its infancy.
As they strive for Premier League highlights and, more importantly, Premier League points, both sides named much-changed sides in the League Cup in midweek.
One man who did start the Cottagers’ clash against Ipswich was Aleksandar Mitrovic and he netted his 50th goal for the club.
He was the Championship’s joint-top scorer last season and found the net 11 times during their Premier League campaign two seasons ago but, crucially, the Serbian scored only twice after Christmas.
He certainly livened Fulham up upon his introduction last weekend but the game was lost by then. Whether he starts or not in Yorkshire, he appears the key figure in scoring the goals for Scott Parker’s side this term.
Parker, who became manager when Fulham’s fate two seasons ago was pretty much sealed, is more experienced now and the players who won promotion last season are well drilled in his style.
There is a clear belief, however, that failure to strengthen the squad by the end of the transfer window at the start of October and Fulham will struggle to survive.
Leeds, less so, and they were certainly as good as their word last weekend. Coach Marcelo Bielsa said before a ball was kicked that he would not be changing his team’s style:
‘To begin with, we will try to play the same way,’ he explained.
If that seven-goal thriller was an indication, then Leeds will score a lot and also concede plenty this term.
This week they have landed a young recruit with the signing of teenage winger Crysencio Summerville from Dutch outfit Feyenoord on a three-year deal.
He is unlikely to make the squad as soon as this weekend – although a place on the bench cannot be ruled out – but Adam Forshaw remains in the recovery room for the hosts, while Liam Cooper is doubtful.
Few of the players who started their midweek tie against Hull – a game they lost on penalties – will be in the starting XI for this one.
Elland Road welcomes back Premier League football. It’s just a shame circumstances dictate there will be no fans there to see it.
Historically, this has always been a close encounter.
Leeds have 23 wins in total, compared to Fulham’s 19 with a further 15 draws.
Last season’s meetings were each won by the home team.
Fulham triumphed 2-1 at home before Christmas but Leeds had the upper hand in the reverse fixture as recently as June which was, of course, played behind closed doors.
Their last clashes in the Premier League were also won by the respective home sides.
Leeds won 3-2 at Elland Road in late 2003 when a double from Fulham’s Louis Saha (who was to join Manchester United a month later) looked to have cancelled out goals from Michael Duberry and Mark Viduka before Dominic Matteo netted a late winner.
Fulham won the return fixture 2-0 at Craven Cottage in March 2004, courtesy of goals from Sean Davis and Luis Boa Morte.
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