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Overloading the flanks, counter attacking football: A tactical look at Leeds’ clash with Sheffield Wednesday

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There’s an intriguing fixture at Elland Road on Saturday evening as promotion-chasing Leeds United take on in-form Sheffield Wednesday in what is sure to be a fiercely contested Yorkshire Derby.  

Leeds have automatic promotion in their sights, whilst Wednesday are in great form under Steve Bruce and are looking to build on some fine form that has kept their own play-off dream alive with five fixtures to go.

Marcelo Bielsa has already confirmed that Leeds will be unchanged following their win over Preston on Tuesday. In the other camp, Bruce has some options back available to him and we could see a few tweaks despite a convincing 3-0 win over Nottingham Forest during the week.

Here, we take a look at the line-ups we are expecting to see at Elland Road – Leeds are unchanged, whilst Sam Hutchinson has returned in place of Lucas Joao for Wednesday, with Bruce opting for a 4-2-3-1.

Of course, these systems never stick and there will be movement from both sides, with Leeds’ 4-1-4-1 something that we only see on paper, with Bielsa’s side flowing freely every time they take to the field.

Kalvin Phillips will obviously drop into his deep role in midfield, splitting Liam Cooper and Pontus Jansson in the process. That allows Ezgjan Alioski and Luke Ayling to get forward, where they’ve been so effective in recent weeks.

The two No.10s that operate ahead of Phillips do some great running off the ball, and they are vital to Leeds’ style of play. Mateusz Klich pulls right, whilst Tyler Roberts operates the left channel.

Both did this superbly well at Preston on Tuesday, with Roberts creating little triangles with Alioski and Jack Harrison, whilst Klich did the same with Ayling and Pablo Hernandez. That gave Leeds so much joy at Deepdale, and Bielsa will surely be looking to isolate Liam Palmer and Morgan Fox in the full-back roles in a similar way.

Overloading the flanks and clever link-up play has worked wonders for Leeds this season, so expect more of the same on Saturday.

For Wednesday, you’d expect Bruce’s side to concede a lot of possession at Elland Road. They aren’t going to come and dominate 60% of the ball, and if they did, you’d be surprised.

We believe Hutchinson will come back into the side for Joao, with Bruce sacrificing an attacking option to try and frustrate Leeds. He will line-up alongside Joey Pelupessy in holding midfield, and whilst Adam Reach might start as the No.10, he will move deeper to try and crowd Leeds out.

Both wide players will be forced to come into a five-man midfield, whilst you’d expect Fletcher to come deeper, as Wednesday look to play on the counter.

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