LEEDS 0-0 CHELSEA
- Goals: None
- Assists: None
- Bonus points: Illan Meslier x3 (£4.6m), Edouard Mendy x2 (£5.1m), Andreas Christensen x1 (£4.7m)
A first half injury to Patrick Bamford (£6.8m) has jeopardised Fantasy Premier League plans ahead of a Blank Gameweek 29, where only four matches will take place.
The highly-owned striker was making his 100th Leeds appearance when, against his former club, he was hurt in an aerial challenge with Antonio Rudiger (£4.6m). Initially limping, Bamford sat on the pitch to receive treatment but couldn’t run it off, replaced by Rodrigo (£5.7m) after 35 minutes.
Leeds are one of just eight teams to play in Gameweek 29, so the FPL community will be hanging onto every word of head coach Marcelo Bielsa in the quest to determine whether it’s a minor knock or an injury that rules him out of the trip to Fulham.
“Liam Cooper is sick and Patrick Bamford, I have not asked (about his injury). If you take for example the last game they played before they played us, the first proper chance Chelsea conceded in that game was minute 90. So for us to have provoked five or six occasions on goal has its merit.” – Marcelo Bielsa
IS THE LEEDS TRIPLE-UP IN JEOPARDY?
Following that is a home meeting with Sheffield United, before fixtures take a nasty turn when facing Manchester City (away), Liverpool (home) and Manchester United (home).
While in-form Fulham aren’t the generous opponent of earlier in the season, many were planning to triple-up on Leeds’ assets such as Bamford, Stuart Dallas (£5.0m), Raphinha (£5.5m) and Jack Harrison (£5.4m). As a team, Leeds have been entertaining for neutrals, previously going 18 games without a draw ahead of Gameweek 28 and being the only side to both score and concede over 40 goals.
So this 0-0 stalemate was a surprise result, made possible due to the eight saves of goalkeeper Illan Meslier. The 21-year-old entered the weekend fresh from stopping a Jesse Lingard (£6.1m) penalty and only West Brom’s Sam Johnstone (£4.5m) had made more saves throughout the season.
In the other net, Edouard Mendy also kept it goalless, producing a brilliant fingertip save from Tyler Roberts’ (£4.6m) shot to push it onto the crossbar. No surprise to see both goalkeepers top the bonus point rankings.
“We had a couple of chances to go ahead that we didn’t take, then Leeds put some pressure on us and they troubled us at times. We found situations where we could escape the pressure, have high recoveries of the ball, but we were not clinical enough in our counter-attacks. We take a 0-0.” – Thomas Tuchel
CHELSEA REFUSE TO CONCEDE
Defensively, Chelsea continue to be imperious since Thomas Tuchel arrived as head coach. They have been undefeated during his 12 games in all competitions, conceding just twice. Ten league matches have an xGC (expected goals conceded) of just 4.54, lower than the rest.
The problem is that Tuchel heavily rotates his large squad. Rudiger looked to be a bargain asset after starting Tuchel’s first eight league games, before being rested against Everton. The cheap Andreas Christensen started six of the last seven but Thiago Silva’s (£5.6m) eventual return from a muscle injury could complicate things further.
Looking ahead to Chelsea’s fixtures, they blank next weekend due to FA Cup commitments but have a promising run of games against West Bromwich Albion (home), Crystal Palace (away), Brighton (home) and West Ham (away). Cesar Azpilicueta (£5.8m) is the only defender to play in each of Tuchel’s league games so far, albeit at a higher price.
There certainly isn’t a reason to invest in his wing-backs. Ben Chilwell (£5.8m) got the nod this time but he has split left-sided starts 50/50 with Marcos Alonso (£5.7m) and it’s similar on the right side between Reece James (£5.0m) and Callum Hudson-Odoi (£5.7m). Both were benched here, initially suggesting that Tuchel’s starting 11 would be a formation change, reverting to a four-man defence.
HAVE ITZ YOUR OWN WAY
However, it wasn’t. Chelsea’s dangerous start at Elland Road came from a right-sided Christian Pulisic (£8.2m) and Hakim Ziyech (£7.9m) terrorising Ezgjan Alioski (£4.3m). That flank produced an early chance for Kai Havertz (£8.2m) in his number nine role, an interesting attempt at getting the £72 million signing to kick-on from his two assists against Everton.
The former Bayer Leverkusen man had another big chance at the start of the second half, taking advantage of the slack Leeds defence giving him time and space to set up a shot. Yet it was hit straight at Meslier.
Crucially, Tuchel clearly views Havertz as someone who can occupy an out-and-out centre-forward berth, which bodes well for his potential as an out-of-position FPL asset.
“I think he (Havertz) is pretty much a nine. I don’t think he’s a false nine. He likes to be in the high position. For him, it is not always necessary to drop to number 10 and turn. For me, his biggest strength is that he loves to be in the high position, loves to arrive in the box, in the six-yard box, he likes to have the last touch. That’s why he can play number nine and he played number nine today.” – Thomas Tuchel
Fellow German Timo Werner (£9.2m) is another big-money signing who has struggled so far, with just one goal from his last 1,350 Premier League minutes. As Chelsea entered Gameweek 28 with solid attacking statistics, a more confident Werner could have been considered a good punt for their run of fixtures.
Instead, perhaps Mason Mount (£7.0m) is a more secure route. The England international was quiet on this occasion but has three goals from his last seven league matches.
BIELSA’S SIDE BEGINNING TO TIRE
As for Leeds, the typical Bielsa story is that his team’s start the season wildly with frantic energy before tiring as the season climaxes. They have failed to find the net in three successive matches, could be without Bamford and are about to face a Fulham side who had five clean sheets from seven games ahead of Gameweek 28. Tripling-up on Leeds players for that match could easily backfire, although Raphinha continues to offer stunning value.
Before these three blanks, the Brazilian had a trio of goals and four assists from the previous seven appearances. He forced Mendy into a great second half save, letting the ball bounce on the penalty spot before spinning into a left-foot strike.
Since first starting in Gameweek 9, only Bruno Fernandes (£11.5m), Mo Salah (£12.4m), Raheem Sterling (£11.5m), Kevin de Bruyne (£11.9m) and Ilkay Gundogan (£6.2m) have a bigger xGI (expected goal involvement).
Dallas was relieved of left-back duties and again allowed to play in midfield, continuing to offer out-of-position potential to FPL managers. His five goals are more than any other defender, with this clean sheet pushing him closer to Aaron Cresswell (£5.8m) as the defender with most points.
Meanwhile, it was strange to see Pascal Struijk (£4.0m) play ahead of Liam Cooper (£4.3m), despite Bielsa specifically saying he wouldn’t be involved.
LEEDS UNITED XI (4-1-4-1): Meslier; Ayling, Struijk, Llorente, Alioski; Phillips; Harrison (Costa 64’), Dallas, Roberts, Raphinha; Bamford (Rodrigo 35’ (Klich 79’)).
CHELSEA XI (4-2-3-1): Mendy; Azpilicueta, Christensen, Rudiger, Chilwell; Kante, Jorginho; Ziyech (Werner 69’), Mount (Hudson-Odoi 79’), Pulisic (James 68’); Havertz.
Elsewhere in Gameweek 28
Wilfried Zaha (£7.1m) had an immediate impact in his first start since Gameweek 22.
He won the first-half penalty that provided Crystal Palace with a 1-0 victory, forcing a handball from Darnell Furlong (£4.5m).
Harking back to the 2017/18 and 2018/19 seasons, it was Luka Milivojevic (£5.6m) who dispatched the spot kick.
Owners of Chelsea defenders will have been satisfied with yet another toothless display from West Bromwich Albion.
They had just one shot on target on Saturday afternoon while chief creator Matheus Pereira (£5.4m) was substituted in the 63rd minute.
Despite Everton suffering yet another home defeat this season, Dominic Calvert-Lewin (£7.7m) finally rewarded his patient owners with his 14th goal of the campaign.
It was his first since Gameweek 23 while the in-form Richarlison (£8.0m) blanked for the second successive match after getting four goals in the previous four.
Burnley’s Chris Wood (£6.2m) got his first away goal since Gameweek 2 and has now netted in back-to-back league games for the first time in 2020/21.
That ensured more frustration for owners of Everton defensive assets, of which Lucas Digne (£6.2m) is the most popular (10.1%).
The Toffees have now conceded at least twice in four of their last seven league matches.
Meanwhile, first-choice goalkeeper Jordan Pickford (£4.8m) was forced off in the first half to be replaced by João Virgínia (£4.3m).
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