23 min: Leeds try to pour forward down the left flank but, again, Southampton are sharp to it. Jan Bednarek is at right-back in the continued absence of Kyle Walker-Peters, who is an early contender for Saints’ player of the season award.
22 min: Bamford goes over in the box but Vestergaard, with a little wry smile, tells him to get on with it. There was nothing in that. Up the other end Tella, a former Arsenal academy forward, is looking accomplished on his full league debut.
20 min: Bamford tries to weave his way through the visitors defence but Southampton snuff the danger out. “Llorente being back poses an interesting question: better an off-form defender in the defense or an out of position player filling in responsibilities there?” emails Giancarlo.
18 min: Vestergaard is gobbling everything up in the Southampton defence. A bit of head tennis ensues – maybe they’ve had enough of the playing surface – and the towering defender comes out on top.
15 min: If you didn’t realise already, Kalvin Phillips is again missing for Leeds with a calf injury. Leeds have won only one of the six league matches he has missed this season. Saints are certainly winning the midfield battle at the moment. Romeu and Ward-Prowse are stomping their feet.
13 min: Diego Llorente gives the ball away cheaply and the Leeds defender already looks to be blowing on only his second start for the club. Vestergaard got Saints moving on halfway and Tella continues to cause problems.
11 min: Tella nudges Ayling over and Leeds win a free-kick just inside the Southampton half. On the touchline, Bielsa is bellowing and Ralph roaring. There is no shortage of passion on display.
10 min: James Ward-Prowse, the Southampton captain, is barking orders, organising his team-mates and shifting them around as Leeds probe just after halfway. Leeds are yet to click.
9 min: Saints appear to be playing Leeds at their own game. Hasenhuttl did suggest he made changes to ensure his players could get their high-press on.
7 min: Romeu does brilliantly to claw the ball away from Luke Ayling on halfway and helps Saints win posssession. Nathan Tella, on his full debut, skates past Liam Cooper and tries to send a shot arcing towards the top corner. He doesn’t make clean contact but promising stuff.
5 min: … Vestergaard drops a header just wide of the Leeds goal! Ward-Prowse whips in a dangerous free-kick, it lands on the edge of the six-yard box and Vestergaard cranes his neck in front of Patrick Bamford to send an effort goalwards. It drops wide. Encouraging start for Saints.
4 min: A high-octane start at Elland Road after a some teething problems at my end …
Saints kick-off after both teams take a knee.
“That sad piece on Gordon McQueen brought back happy memories of the big man soaring horizontally over the England defence at Wembley in 1977,” emails Justin Kavanagh. “He could defend against the besty too. How the current Leeds team could use a rock like him at the back these days.”
Marcelo Bielsa has a word pre-match. “The change is made because we can count on Diego Llorente again and I am in agreement that the performance was good in the last game. It is necessary in this moment and we hope he can show the qualities that brought him here. There are no easy games in the Premier League, all the teams have highs and lows and I have the sensation that Southampton are recovering the levels of earlier in the season. I am not the best qualified to describe the opponent’s style, I will leave that to others who are better qualified.”
Ralph Hasenhüttl speaks and explains why he has left Danny Ings on the bench. “When you have seen how intense our last game was, and today we have maybe one of the most intense of the season, against a team who is known for their massive running stats. You need fresh players on the pitch. It does not mean they will not come on.”
Southampton, it is fair to say, are not jumping up and down with glee at the moment. Their total of four points in 2021 is the lowest in the Premier League, as is their tally of six goals scored. Their solitary victory in 12 matches arrived against the champions in January.
Some sad news regarding a former Leeds player:
Team news news: there is no Danny Ings or Takumi Minamino in the Saints XI, having run themselves into the ground against Chelsea at St Mary’s four days ago, but both are on the bench. The 21-year-old Nathan Tella, an exciting forward, makes his full Premier League debut as Ralph Hasenhüttl makes three changes. Meanwhile Marcelo Bielsa tweaks things with Diego Llorente returning to the starting lineup in place of Jamie Shackleton, for only his second start since a summer move from Sociedad.
Leeds (4-4-1-1): Meslier; Ayling, Cooper, Llorente, Dallas; Raphinha, Struijk, Klich, Harrison; Roberts; Bamford
Subs: Casilla, Alioski, Cresswell, Casey, Costa, Jenkins, Huggins, Hernandez, Gelhardt
Southampton (4-4-2): McCarthy; Bednarek, Salisu, Vestergaard, Bertrand; Armstrong, Ward-Prowse, Romeu, Tella; Adams, Redmond
Subs: Forster, Ramsay, Stephens, Chauke, Jankewitz, Minamino, Djenepo, N’Lundulu, Ings
Referee: Andre Marriner
To Elland Road, where Marcelo Bielsa’s side welcome Southampton in a teatime kick-off. What better way to start the evening? Team news is imminent. Leeds were desperately unlucky in defeat at Wolves last week while Southampton stopped the rot against Chelsea after six straight defeats.