What Leeds United and Marcelo Bielsa must do tactically to beat Brighton this weekend

In the latest of a series for the Yorkshire Evening Post, Jon Mackenzie - from All Stats Aren't We - takes a deeper look at Leeds United's next opponents - Brighton.

Friday, 30th April 2021, 4:51 pm
Updated Friday, 30th April 2021, 4:52 pm
Brighton & Hove Albion celebrate. Pic: Getty

In some respects, Brighton are a bit of an outlier when it comes to Leeds season so far: they’re the only team who have been embroiled in the Premier League relegation battle to have beaten Leeds.

Of course, when Brighton ground out a very professional 1-0 victory at Elland Road, things were slightly different.

Leeds were in a mini-slump after the 6-2 defeat against Manchester United and had just come off the back of losses to Spurs in the Premier League and Crawley in the FA Cup and they were missing some important players that day too.

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Of late, Leeds have enjoyed a good unbeaten spell against some of the top teams in the division, weathering a surprisingly muted April which contained a win against Manchester City and draws to Liverpool and Manchester United.

Those games were understandably pragmatic affairs.

This weekend will be a big test as to whether Leeds can shift into a more attacking mode.

Here are three aspects of Graham Potter’s system to look out for tomorrow:

1. A different prospect?

Back in January, Leeds fielded a belts-and-braces team against Brighton at Elland Road.

With Kalvin Phillips out, Pascal Struijk was moved into midfield, necessitating a shift for Luke Ayling from right-back to centre-back.

This was also one of the last few outings of the Rodrigo-Mateusz Klich partnership in central midfield.

That day, Brighton pressed Leeds into submission, stifling their full-backs and stopping Leeds from playing out.

Tomorrow, we’ll see a completely different Leeds side out. It will be fascinating to see what impact that makes.

2. The dreaded 3-4-3

Although Graham Potter is a flexible manager tactically, it seems likely that he will return to the 3-4-3 formation that he used against Leeds in January.

There are two reasons: firstly, his team have reverted to playing this way in the last couple of months almost exclusively.

Secondly, the 3-4-3 offers a pressing structure that really works well against Leeds.

With two groups of four players on each side who can hunt in a pack, the 3-4-3 has a lot to offer a side who wants to break up Leeds transitions in wide areas.

3. A return to aggression?

A lot has been made of Leeds' shift towards pragmatism.

With the advent of “Stuart Dallas the midfielder,” we’ve seen a more muted press from Leeds and a drop off in their high pressing.

This is all well and good against top-table sides. The question is: will it affect their capacity to attack lower-table sides?

Tomorrow will be a good barometer of this.