Leeds United’s festive Premier League fixtures compared to relegation rivals

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December 2020 saw a challenging run of fixtures for Leeds United but it was a run they navigated impressively as they put themselves in a strong position midway through the season, allowing the club to largely put any relegation worries behind them.

There were losses to Chelsea, West Ham and a brutal 6-2 loss to Manchester United but the Whites also secured victories over Burnley, Newcastle United and West Bromwich Albion as they climbed the table.

This season they find themselves very much in the mix with relegation contenders as the 7-0 loss to Manchester City in midweek left them 5 points ahead of 18th place Burnley, with the Lancashire club holding two games in hand over the Whites.

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One thing which should be heartening for Leeds fans is that there are currently a host of teams caught up in the relegation battle. The bottom three of Burnley, Newcastle United and Norwich City are adrift, with 17th place Watford 3 points clear.

Then there is Leeds in 16th and Southampton above in 15th, just one point ahead. Everton have a further two points which puts them in 14th but they are the side who have struggled most with injuries, after Leeds. Considering they have won only once in 11 games, they could be dragged into the mire.

Brighton and Brentford seem highly unlikely to fall into the relegation battle as their first 17 games have given them a big enough gap to the bottom three, despite their mixed form. In the case of Brighton, a flurry of wins in the first two months looks to have given them a big enough buffer, despite being on a long stretch without a win.

With the caveat that all games are subject to last-minute covid cancellations in current circumstances, here are the fixtures for the relegation battlers up until the FA Cup weekend in early January:

Norwich City: 17/12 West Ham (a) [postponed], 26/12 Arsenal (h), 28/12 Crystal Palace (a), 01/01 Leicester City (a)

Newcastle United: 19/12 Manchester City (h), 27/12 Manchester United (h), 30/12 Everton (a), 02/01 Southampton (a)

Burnley: 18/12 Aston Villa (a), 26/12 Everton (h), 30/12 Manchester United, 02/01 Leeds United (a)

Watford: 18/12 Crystal Palace (h) [postponed], 26/12 Wolves (a), 28/12 West Ham (h), 01/01 Tottenham (h)

Leeds United: 18/12 Arsenal (h), 26/12 Liverpool (a), 28/12 Aston Villa (h), 02/01 Burnley (h)

Southampton: 18/12 Brentford (a) [postponed], 26/12 West Ham (a), 28/12 Tottenham (h), 02/01 Newcastle United (h)

Everton: 19/12 Leicester City (h), 26/12 Burnley (h), 30/12 Newcastle United (h), 02/01 Brighton (h)

As you can see, Leeds are midway through their extremely tough run, still having to play Arsenal and Liverpool after already playing Manchester City and Chelsea in their last two. However, as difficult as Arsenal and Liverpool are, Marcelo Bielsa won’t write those games off and they will see the following fixtures against Aston Villa and Burnley as opportunities to pick up wins. The Burnley game in particular will be hugely important, given their position in the league. The Whites will hope for better than the 1-1 draw they secured at Turf Moor early in the season.

Meanwhile, Leeds’ rivals all have difficult fixtures in the games ahead. Norwich and Watford will have to make up for their postponed games due to covid outbreaks elsewhere, which whilst it gives them a game in hand, means fixtures will be stacked up elsewhere. Also, it puts additional pressure on picking up points in those games if teams above them open up gaps by winning points when they aren’t playing.

Newcastle’s run looks daunting for their most immediate two fixtures, before away games against fellow strugglers Everton and Southampton. They may find that if they don’t win those games – regardless of what they’re able to do in January in terms of signings – that they will give themselves too much to do in the second half of the season.

Everton’s fixtures look to be the most favourable in this run, however their injury crisis puts them at a disadvantage. Should they overcome adversity and manage to pick up some good points from those games, they would likely pull away from danger, with players like Dominic Calvert-Lewin to return and give them the quality that means they’d be unlikely to struggle further.

Whilst covid may play havoc with the upcoming schedule, it seems highly likely that the festive fixtures will bring more of a shape to the bottom of the division and reduce the relegation battle to more like four or five teams instead of six or seven. Leeds will hope that those crucial games at the end of their run can be their route out of the group of relegation strugglers.

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