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The Reds should prove too strong for a Leeds United team without key players, so a home win by three goals or more is the way to go.
Back Liverpool -2.5 handicap (+115)
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All of a sudden, the Premier League title race is back on. Manchester City have been almost flawless in recent months. Prior to the weekend just gone, they had won 14 of their last 15 matches in the top flight. A run of four clean sheets in their previous six outings showed that opponents were struggling to score against City, never mind actually beat them. It looked to be only a matter of time before Pep Guardiola’s side got their hands on the Premier League trophy for the fourth time in five years.
City are still top of the table and remain the favorites to end the campaign there. But for the first time in months, a degree of doubt has crept in. Tottenham Hotspur’s 3-2 win at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday, together with Liverpool’s 3-1 victory over Norwich City, has blown the race open again. If Jurgen Klopp’s side emerge triumphant on Wednesday, they will move to within three points of top spot – and there is still one head-to-head meeting between them and City to come.
City remain in the driving seat, despite the fact that both teams have their fate in their own hands. Liverpool have won five on the bounce, but the fixture list has been kind – those victories came over Brentford, Crystal Palace, Leicester City, Burnley and Norwich, all of whom are in the bottom half of the table. Upcoming meetings with West Ham United, Brighton & Hove Albion, Arsenal and Manchester United will be tougher tests.
Liverpool have given themselves a chance, though. They have lost only one of their last 14 matches – the same number as City. A wobble over the festive period saw them lose ground, but Liverpool had previously strung together a six-match winning run. Guardiola knows their potential. He will no longer be sitting quite so comfortably.
Leeds United invariably make for entertaining viewing, and that was the case again on Sunday. Manchester United cruised into a 2-0 lead at a sodden Elland Road, but two goals within the space of 24 in-play seconds brought the home team back on level terms. United ran out 4-2 winners thanks to goals from Fred and Anthony Elanga, but Leeds turned in a spirited showing in the second half.
There is currently cause for concern at the only top-flight club in Yorkshire, however. Leeds are now only five points clear of the bottom three. They are without a win in four matches, and have conceded 10 goals in their last three outings. That is surely unsustainable. The Whites’ backline has now been breached 50 times this term; only last-placed Norwich have a worse defensive record.
The worrying thing for Leeds (and others like Everton and Brentford) is that the bottom four have shown signs of life in recent weeks. Newcastle United are unbeaten in six games. Burnley have lost only one of their last five. Watford won at the weekend and look more solid under Roy Hodgson. Even Norwich have pulled the odd result out of the bag, although it will require a monumental effort for the Canaries to stay up. Leeds are by no means safe yet.
Bielsa’s task of keeping his team in the division is made harder by the continued absence of Liam Cooper, Kalvin Phillips and Patrick Bamford, three players who have been integral to the Leeds cause throughout the Argentine’s tenure. Take Virgil van Dijk, Fabinho and Mohamed Salah out of the Liverpool team and Jurgen Klopp’s side would suffer a dip. That is in effect what Leeds are dealing with right now.
All three players will miss out on Wednesday, while Robin Koch is a doubt after suffering a head injury at the weekend. Liverpool’s likely front three of Salah, Sadio Mane and Luis Diaz will be licking their lips at the prospect of facing a Leeds side which has not exactly mastered the art of defensive solidity of late. Bielsa’s attack-minded tactics are non-negotiable and that will almost certainly play into Liverpool’s hands here.
On the opening weekend of last season, Liverpool ran out 4-3 winners over Leeds at Anfield. We could be in store for a similarly open encounter in midweek, although the Reds are likely to keep things considerably tighter at the back this time around. A home win by a three-goal margin or more looks possible, so back Liverpool at a -2.5 handicap.
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|Liverpool vs Leeds United Information|
|Teams||Liverpool vs Leeds United|
|Location||Anfield, Liverpool, England|
|Time||Wednesday, 23 February 2022, 2.45 PM EST|
|How to watch||Peacock Premium|
Greg Lea is a freelance soccer journalist from London. He is the former editor of The Set Pieces, and has contributed to the Guardian, FourFourTwo, and ESPN. A Crystal Palace fan, he is a long-time subscriber to the belief that it's the taking part that counts. Email: [email protected]More info on Greg Lea
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