Leeds United’s best and worst-case scenarios from this weekend’s Premier League fixtures as the relegation battle heats up
The Premier League returns this weekend after top-flight action was paused for the FA Cup - but how could Leeds United’s league position look after this gameweek?
After the festive season was blighted by postponements due to covid-19 infections, all 20 teams are playing this weekend as the Premier League returns after a break for the FA Cup.
Now past the midway point of the season, the competition is hotting up.
Manchester City look to be running away with things at the top of the table, with a 10-point gap between Pep Guardiola’s side and second-placed Chelsea which could be extended when the two teams face up on Saturday afternoon.
It’s a much tighter affair at the other end of the rankings, with just three points separating the bottom four sides, with other several teams still at risk of getting pulled into a relegation scrap.
Leeds United made the perfect start to 2022 by beating fellow strugglers Burnley 3-1 and pulling eight points clear of the drop zone, but there is still some way to go before the Whites can be confident of preserving their hard-fought Premier League status.
Here, we take a look at the fixtures of interest this weekend and the outcomes United fans will be rooting for:
Newcastle United v Watford - Saturday, 3pm
This is a massive occasion for both sides. The Magpies would leapfrog Watford with a win, while victory for the visitors would take them up to 17 points which, depending on other results, could open up a six-point cushion for Claudio Ranieri’s side.
The bottom-of-the-table clash will be the first chance to see whether the takeover by Amada Stavely’s cash-rich Saudi-led consortium will impact Toon’s fate, with new signings Kieran Trippier and Chris Wood available for their first league appearances.
Though a win for Watford could open up a larger gap between Leeds and the drop, a tie is surely the best outcome for the Whites in the long-run, with both teams threatening United’s Premier League status.
Best: Draw. Worst: Watford or Newcastle win by a large margin.
Norwich City v Everton - Saturday, 3pm
Two teams in dire straits, both desperately needing a result to halt their decline - this will make for an interesting fixture.
With two Premier League wins to their name, the Canaries have been lingering in the Premier League basement ever since the opening day. Though an FA Cup run is far from a priority at this moment in time, Dean Smith’s men might be bucked by their third round victory over Charlton Athletic.
After a strong start to their league campaign, Everton have been in freefall since October. The Toffees have slipped from 5th to 15th and fans are calling for head coach Rafa Benitez to go. Something needs to change at Goodison Park or the Merseyside club risk getting mixed up in a relegation scrap.
Leeds are tied on points with Everton at the start of gameweek 22 so, for anyone with hopes of United climbing the table, a win for Norwich would be a better outcome, but such a result would put the Canaries within six points of Bielsa’s side, so sharing the points is a safer bet.
Best: Draw. Worst: Norwich City win.
Burnley v Leicester City - Saturday, 3pm
Burnley haven’t won a league game since October and, last week, were dumped out of the FA Cup by Championship side Huddersfield Town. To add insult to injury, the Clarets have lost their star striker Wood to relegation rivals Newcastle United this week.
Leicester, meanwhile, are having a patchy run of league form, but have performed well against basement sides recently - Watford and Newcastle each conceded four goals at the King Power Stadium in the last six weeks.
Whites supporters would love to see the Foxes inflict a similar result on Burnley this weekend.
Best: Leicester win. Worst: Burnley win.
West Ham United v Leeds United - Sunday, 2pm
Leeds travel to the London Stadium for the second time in two weeks on Sunday and, this time, it means more.
Bielsa was keen to pay due respect to the FA Cup but will no doubt be more invested in the outcome of this weekend’s visit which, if successful, could put United 11 points clear of the drop (other results depending).
With a controversial VAR decision playing a huge part in the Whites’ FA Cup exit, you couldn’t say Bielsa’s side were overwhelmed by the Irons in last week’s defeat.
Leeds will throw everything at getting a result to boost their chance of Premier League survival.
Best: Leeds win by a large goal margin. Worst: West Ham win by a large goal margin.
If all of the Whites’ best case scenarios come true, Leeds could end the weekend in 15th place with 22 points, 10 points clear of the drop.
If all of the worst case scenarios come true, Leeds would stay in 16th place, but the gap to the drop zone would shorten to just five points.
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