The Marcelo Bielsa era at Leeds gets underway on Sunday as newly-relegated Stoke arrive in town. Mark O'Haire previews the encounter from Elland Road...
"Leeds started 2017/18 superbly before falling away to finish 13th although a similarly fast opening stanza may not materialise as the club adapts to Marcelo Bielsa’s demands and expansive style of play. "
Leeds begin a new era under Bielsa
For the eighth season in a row, Leeds start the new season with a new manager but the Yorkshire giants have pulled off one of the coups of Championship history by persuading former Argentina, Chile and Athletic Bilbao head coach Marcelo Bielsa to take over at Elland Road.
Seen as a mentor to the likes of Pep Guardiola and Mauricio Pochettino, Bielsa is famed for his ideals around possession and pressing with a famed 3-3-1-3 system designed around attacking football. The big question in West Yorkshire is, how long will it take Bielsa to get his new charges up to speed.
Lewis Baker, Jamal Blackman and Patrick Bamford are all in line for potential debuts but fellow new addition Barry Douglas is expected to miss out. Meanwhile, defender Gaetano Berardi is unavailable through suspension.
Stoke aim for immediate promotion
Stoke have selected Gary Rowett as the man to guide the Potters back to the Premier League at the first time of asking. Having led Derby to the play-offs last term, Rowett brings plenty of Football League experience to the Staffordshire side but is yet to earn a promotion in his managerial career.
Nevertheless, the former right-back is renowned for his ability to organise EFL teams, particularly defensively. The football Rowett's teams play is often attritional but a results-hungry Stoke board aren't too fussed as long as an immediate return to the big-time is secured following a 10-year stay at the top.
Tom Ince, James McClean, Oghenekaro Etebo and Benik Afobe are interesting arrivals and just this week the Potters announced the addition of Ashley Williams. However, pre-season has been far from seamless with the visitors falling to defeat in four of their past five outings this summer.
Stoke are unbeaten in each of their past three trips to Elland Road (W1-D2-L0) dating back to 1990 - winning 4-0 on their last visit in 2006 - but the Potters are winless in their curtain-raising fixture since 2009 (W0-D3-L5). Nevertheless, the newly-relegated outfit have been chalked up as [2.80] favourites on Sunday.
The guests had the worst goal difference in the Premier League last season and conceded an average of 1.88 Expected Goals per-game but with Rowett now in situ, improvements should be made to their defensive game. With Stoke expected to sit deep in an attempt to nullify their hosts, the [1.97] available on the Potters in the Draw No Bet market may appeal.
Leeds [2.84] started 2017/18 superbly before falling away to finish 13th although a similarly fast opening stanza may not materialise as the club adapts to Marcelo Bielsa's demands and expansive style of play.
The Whites have finished between 7th and 15th in their last eight campaigns and there's no guarantee the Argentine can find a quick fix to accelerate a promotion push. Therefore, I'm happy to oppose the home side before seeing evidence to suggest otherwise.
Marcelo Bielsa is a forward-thinking coach by nature and so goals should, in theory, follow. Leeds have scored eight goals in their most recent three friendlies, although the hosts have also leaked at least once in five of their past six pre-season outings.
The above paragraph should enthuse Both Teams To Score [1.75] backers, especially so when taking into account 13/23 (57%) of Gary Rowett's away encounters in charge of Derby saw the same selection provide profit.
Nevertheless, I'm happy to take a watching brief on the goals front until watching the two teams play this weekend.