How Leeds United can beat Burnley as Marcelo Bielsa and Sean Dyche meet at Elland Road

In the latest of a new series for the Yorkshire Evening Post, Jon Mackenzie takes a deeper look at Leeds United's next opponents - Burnley.

Saturday, 26th December 2020, 12:00 pm

Up until the last few weeks, the prospect of facing Burnley at home might not have felt as daunting. With Sean Dyche’s team hovering around the relegation zone, many pundits were asking whether or not Dyche’s magic touch had finally deserted him.

However, a couple of results later along with the realisation that the Clarets still have a game in hand over most of their rivals in the table and tomorrow’s fixture is starting to look a little tougher than immediately thought.

Of the six losses they have suffered, five of them have been against teams in the top half of the table. This flirtation with the relegation zone, then, looks more like the result of unfavourable scheduling. Here are three aspects of Dyche’s system to look out for tomorrow:

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Burnley celebrate at Turf Moor. Pic: Getty

A Winning Formula

If we know anything with any certainty about the game tomorrow, it’s that Sean Dyche will line up his team in some iteration of a 4-4-2. There is always the possibility that one of the two strikers could drop a little deeper, forming a 4-4-1-1.

But for the most part, the Burnley structure will follow the tried and tested formula that has kept them in the Premier League all these years.

A 4-4-2 means the relatively rare appearance of the 3-3-1-3 formation for Leeds, all the more worrying given Leeds centre-back injury crisis at the moment.

However, the tenor of this game will be largely attacking possession, trying to break down Burnley’s low block and mitigate any direct counter attacks they send Leeds’ way.

Clipped Wings

Playing in a direct, counter-attacking manner, Burnley rely fairly heavily on wide players for their creativity, moving the ball in transition into wide areas where they can find the heads of strikers Chris Wood or Ashley Barnes.Fortunately for Leeds, Burnley have struggled to field their most dangerous wingers this season because of injury. Dwight McNeil, perhaps their most creative player, is doubtful for the game and Robbie Brady, who seemed to have hit some sort of form, came off injured in the win against Wolves.

Without this edge in wide areas, Burnley’s tactics are definitely stunted.

Midfield Overloads

The 4-4-2 has largely fallen out of favour in world football.

There are more teams following the German approach and bringing their wingers narrow so that the structure resembles a 4-2-2-2. But in the traditional orientation, the 4-4-2 is just too rigid, offering space to be exploited between the lines of defence and midfield.

Now that most teams put three players in the central midfield area, the tendency has been to drop a striker into the midfield to help out.

Although Leeds will likely play a 3-3-1-3, expect to see Stuart Dallas invert from the right wing back position to help out Kalvin Phillips. This should give Leeds the edge in central midfield.