Leeds visit the Brentford Community Stadium on Sunday knowing that the chance of retaining their Premier League status is out of their hands.
They will begin the day in the final relegation place, level on points with Burnley but with a goal difference of 20 goals worse than the Clarets.
Burnley entertain Newcastle, and Leeds will only survive by bettering their result – otherwise their two-year stay in the Premier League will come to an end.
If Leeds do go down, it is the heavy defeats they have suffered which will cost them.
They conceded 12 goals on two visits to Manchester – losing 5-1 at United and 7-0 at City – while they also went down 6-0 at Liverpool.
They also leaked goals at Elland Road – going down 4-0 to both Spurs and Man City, 4-1 to Arsenal and 4-2 to Man Utd.
Promotion for Leeds as champions of the Championship in 2020 ended a 16- year absence from the top flight, during which they also spent three seasons in League One.
Leeds were founder members of the Premier League in 1992, having been the last champions of the old Division One the previous season.
WHO’S IN CHARGE
Jesse Marsch replaced Marcelo Bielsa as manager in February.
He started his managerial career in the MLS with Montreal Impact, before moving to New York Red Bulls, where among other players he was in charge of ex-Brentford loan striker Bradley Wright-Phillips.
Jessie left in the summer of 2018 and became assistant to current Manchester United boss Ralf Rangnick at German side RB Leipzig, but left after a year to become head coach of Austrian club RB Salzburg.
He returned to Leipzig as their new head coach at the start of this season, before leaving in December and then joining Leeds a couple of months later.
As a player, he spent all his career in his native USA as a midfielder for DC United, Chicago Fire and Chivas, winning two international caps.
WE’VE MET BEFORE
Leeds have been regular opponents of ours in recent years.
We met them in six of our seven seasons in the Championship, as well as in one year in League One in the previous decade.
We’ve had the better of the 12 Championship encounters with five wins, four draws and three defeats – all of which came at Elland Road – while both the third tier matches were drawn.
This season’s first Premier League meeting also ended up level after Leeds equalised in the fifth minute of second-half stoppage time to earn a 2-2 draw.
Tyler Roberts gave the hosts the lead in the 27th minute, but two goals in eight minutes around the hour mark from Shandon Baptiste, his first for the Bees, and Sergi Canos, turned the game in our favour.
But Patrick Bamford denied us victory when he struck from close-range from a corner.
Leeds failed to win any of their last 11 league and cup visits to Griffin Park, although have beaten us in recent times at Elland Road.
We did the double in 2014/15 – winning 2-0 at home and 1-0 away – while both the following season’s matches ended 1-1.
There were two home wins in 2016/17 – with Leeds triumphing 1-0 at Elland Road and the Bees earning a 2-0 victory in TW8 – and the same pattern the following season, with the Bees winning 3-1 at Griffin Park and Leeds taking the return 1-0.
In 2018/19, we played at Elland Road in early October and were within minutes of earning a 1-0 win, before a late header by future Bee Pontus Jansson ensured that the game finished 1-1.
Neal Maupay had put us ahead from the penalty spot in the 62nd minute with his 10th Championship goal of the season, making him the quickest player to reach the landmark in all four divisions that season. However, we couldn’t quite hold on and Pontus levelled before the hosts’ Luke Ayling was sent off in injury-time after picking up a second yellow card.
The Easter Monday return was crucial to Leeds in their hopes of trying to win automatic promotion, but – after they lost at home to Wigan on Good Friday – their holiday period became even worse as the Bees earned a 2-0 win in another televised game.
Brentford took the lead on the stroke of half-time when Sergi Canos set Maupay free, and the striker slotted home his 27th goal of the season.
Maupay returned the compliment just past the hour mark when he fed Canos, who doubled the lead and wrapped up a victory which left the Bees 15th in the table.
Leeds earned their third 1-0 home win over us in four seasons on a Wednesday evening in August 2019.
Arsenal loanee Eddie Nketiah scored the only goal on his Championship debut in the 61st minute – four minutes after coming off the bench. The victory took the Whites to the top of the table, while our second defeat in four games from the start of the season dropped us down to 18th.
The return the following February turned out to be the last-ever floodlit game at Griffin Park with fans, and finished 1-1.
Leeds goalkeeper Kiko Casilla let a backpass from Liam Cooper slip under his foot and Said Benrahma pounced to give us a 25th-minute lead, but Cooper equalised from a corner before the break.
The point left Leeds second in the table, two points ahead of us in fourth.
BBC Radio Leeds’s Leeds United commentator Adam Pope tells us why Leeds have struggled this season, the impact of the mid-season change of manager, and reflects on the differing campaigns had by the club’s three ex-Bees.
Q – What has gone wrong for Leeds this season?
A – A combination of factors but crippling injury to the spine of the team is the single biggest one. Liam Cooper, Kalvin Phillips and Patrick Bamford have missed large swathes of the campaign. A lack of recruitment in January has hit hard too especially with the squad limited in size.
Latterly discipline has been an issue with two early reckless red cards against top sides making it highly improbable to create a surprise result. Tactically I believe the players have found it hard to adjust from playing Marcelo Bielsa’s style to a new one under Jesse Marsch after more than three years.
Q – What impact has the change of manager made and what has Jesse Marsch done differently to Marcelo Bielsa?
A – It’s caused a big debate. Marcelo Bielsa was revered and it was sad to see it end the way it did so there is a hangover and mourning for many supporters. Consequently, Marsch came into a difficult environment with a side conceding lots of goals and coming to terms with the sacking of a head coach who had transformed the club and their lives.
Marsch was extremely respectful to his predecessor who is a very different character to him. Marsch’s one-on-one communication, more inclusive approach and boundless positivity was greeted by the squad. His style of play initially made United more robust defensively by moving away from the man-marking system employed by Bielsa. An aggressive press was still employed but in a more blanket approach towards the ball and with a narrower set-up.
A five-match unbeaten run appeared to have pulled United clear of trouble but a run of tough games has brought one point from 12. There have been a lot of formation changes and players look somewhat unsure in possession although the second half against Brighton was a significant improvement in providing a more attacking threat.
Q – Leeds seem to have been hit by the so-called “second season syndrome”. What can Brentford do to avoid this next term?
A – To be honest I do not believe in that syndrome. I always recall Leeds United chief executive Angus Kinnear telling me that statistically, promoted clubs have a 50% chance of survival both in the first season after they go up as well as in the second. Recruitment is key and it is not like the board have not spent money with £25m spent on signing of Dan James and £13m for Barcelona left-back Junior Firpo last summer. The truth is neither has reached the level expected. The former has often been played out of position whilst the latter has suffered with form and injury.
By the turn of the year, when injuries and results were biting hard, the club failed to bring in reinforcements. That looks particularly damaging now. Compromise was required to bring in maybe not the first targets on the list, but a couple of bodies to bolster the ranks.
Q – Several key players have spent long times out injured – which was the most significant injury and why?
A – Patrick Bamford has not played 90 minutes for eight months. His 17 goals last season were key to United finishing ninth and his last goal, his second of the campaign, came against Brentford when he appeared from the bench to equalise in December… before suffering another injury as he celebrated. His hold-up play has been severely missed and his current foot problem is yet another setback to his hopes of rekindling his England career.
Q – Leeds have three ex-Bees on the books in Stuart Dallas, Adam Forshaw and Ian Poveda – what sort of seasons have they each had?
A – Stuart Dallas’s season has ended tragically with a broken leg. Referred to as the “iron man” by head coach Jesse Marsch and you can see why when he had played every Premier League game since promotion and most of the Championship games in the previous season. After a middling few years with United, he was transformed under Bielsa into becoming an excellent defender on either side and also a midfielder as opposed to the winger he arrived as. Dallas is the leading appearance maker for the club in the present squad with 267 games under his belt. His experience, example, pace and energy are all missed at a crucial time.
Adam Forshaw is currently out with a fractured kneecap. Its another awful blow to the midfielder who amazingly came back to perform to a very high level in the Premier League after two years out with hip and groin problems. His accurate use of the ball and composure make him somewhat of a metronome for the side by keeping everything ticking over in the middle of the park.
Ian Poveda has struggled to hold down a place at Elland Road where he has made 20 appearances before going on loan to Blackburn this season. Jack Harrison, Raphinha and Dan James are ahead of him in the pecking order on the wing so it was sensible that he and Helder Costa find loan deals. Sadly, he suffered a terrible ankle injury playing for Rovers in November which took him until April to recover from. He has shown glimpses of talent for United but not enough to show he can cope with the Premier League yet. However, his loan spell at Ewood Park was successful until the point of his injury.
Q – What do you remember of Brentford’s draw at Elland Road in December?
A – Not much other than Bamford’s late equaliser to be honest. Seven times a last-minute goal has gone in for United this season and that one felt important, as it meant an important point with Chelsea, Manchester City, Arsenal and, at the time, Liverpool all scheduled to follow. All matches which were subsequently lost too.
It was also the game when both captain Liam Cooper and talisman Kalvin Phillips left the pitch before requiring hamstring surgery which ruled them out for several months. There was also a rare goal for Tyler Roberts on his 100th appearance for Leeds.
Q – What memories do you have of other past meetings between the sides?
A – The most visceral one is the draw at Griffin Park in the promotion season when United had to stop the rot after a run of consecutive defeats looked like the wheels were coming off. Keeper Kiko Casilla’s terrible error was rescued by Cooper’s equaliser on a really pressured evening which then led to five straight wins before lockdown. It was a real turning point.
The other will be my first visit in December 2009 for a dreadful 0-0 but I remember having a really good pint in the Magpie and Crown the night before and some guy coming round the pub selling seafood in basket.
Q – How much are you looking forward to your first trip to the Brentford Community Stadium?
A – New ground! An absolute pleasure to always chalk off another. It will mean of the current stadia in the top four divisions I have not done Morecambe, AFC Wimbledon, Forest Green Rovers, Crawley Town and Stevenage. Gutted about Crawley because United played them in the FA Cup but Covid restrictions meant we could not go, although that is nothing compared to what the supporters had to suffer by missing far more matches.
Q – Finally can you give me a possible Leeds line-up and formation please?
A – I would expect a similar 4-2-3-1 line up to the one that drew with Brighton which was more on the front foot.
Injured Forshaw, Dallas, Summerville, Roberts probably Bamford
Suspended James and Ayling which means that Koch has moved to right back from a preferred centre back position although he can play in midfield too. Other options are Shackleton at right back and Hjelde at left back. Marsch has gone with three centre backs at times or even four with Struijk in a back five.
GK Illan Meslier
Back four from right to left
Liam Cooper ©
HOW TO FOLLOW THE GAME IF YOU CAN’T BE THERE
If you can’t get to the Brentford Community Stadium for Sunday’s sold-out 4pm kick-off, there are various ways of following the game.
TV – The match is being shown live on Sky Sports, with coverage starting at 2.30.
iFollow – If you want Brentford commentary, iFollow audio coverage is available via monthly or seasonal passes. Coverage starts half an hour before kick-off and is advert-free, with Mark Burridge, Jonathan Douglas and Karleigh Osborne.
PUBS IN BRENTFORD AND TRAVEL NEWS
For Leeds fans coming to the Brentford Community Stadium for the first time, you will find that for this game, certain pubs are home only and others admit both home and away fans.
Transport to Brentford and Kew Bridge
The simplest on paper to get to Brentford FC from town is to get the tube to Waterloo (Northern, Jubilee lines) or Vauxhall (Victoria Line) and then take the Overground train to Kew Bridge, which is right by the stadium. Brentford is one stop further on if you are on an ‘Original Griffin Park Pub’ mission.
With trains from Waterloo being only twice an hour (22 and 52) and taking 28 minutes, we normally recommend people jump on the tube from King’s Cross or Euston and head to Northfields or South Ealing on the Piccadilly Line as it is quicker (including the time getting across London and waiting at Waterloo) and trains are more frequent.
It is only 40 minutes max station by tube to station meaning you could be in a Brentford pub within an hour of embarking your train at Kings Cross, Euston or Liverpool Street.
The other station option is Gunnersbury. You can walk to the stadium from Gunnersbury tube station (District line) in 25 minutes or take a bus (H91, 237, 267, 110), but note that it is closed for entry for one hour after the match.
For the Brentford/Griffin Park pubs you can get the Piccadilly line tube to Northfields station from King’s Cross or Euston (35 minutes) then walk down to The Plough, The Globe, The Lord Nelson and The Griffin and other pubs from there.
The new stadium is around 25 minutes’ walk from South Ealing station – if you don’t fancy Gunnersbury – or you can get on the 65 bus from across the road which will drop you almost outside in 15 minutes.
You can also pick up the 65 bus from Ealing Broadway (District and Central line) which will take you to the new stadium in 25 minutes.
You can check out Transport for London’s guide to travel on the Tube and Overground.