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Leeds United season preview - predictions, fixtures, summer signings, starting XI

Sports Mole takes an in-depth look at newly-promoted Leeds United ahead of the start of the 2020-21 Premier League season.

For the first time since 2003-04, Leeds United will be playing Premier League football in the upcoming season following their promotion from the Championship.

Marcelo Bielsa's side stormed to the second-tier title to secure a long-awaited route back to the big time, and the focus will now switch to consolidating their top-flight status.

Here, Sports Mole takes an in-depth look at Leeds ahead of the 2020-21 campaign.

How did they fare last season?

Leeds United players celebrate winning promotion to the Premier League in July 2020© Reuters


Sixteen long years since they were last in the Premier League - during which time they had slipped down to League One and suffered crisis after crisis and false dawn after false dawn - Leeds United finally earned their return to the big time.

Thirteen points from the first 15 available in the Championship set the tone and they lost just three of their opening 22 outings to raise belief that 2019-20 could finally be their year.

Ultimately the type of collapse which has plagued past promotion attempts never materialised, although there were worrying signs during a spell in which Leeds only won two of 11 games and lost four of five at one stage.

However, they eventually steadied the ship and, with the exception of a 2-0 defeat at Cardiff City in their first game back after lockdown, they were almost faultless for the remainder of the campaign.

Marcelo Bielsa's side won 14 of their final 16 league games, amassing 43 points from a possible 48 and keeping 10 clean sheets in the process, including victories in each of their last six to not only earn promotion, but also win the title in style.

A dream weekend saw promotion secured courtesy of a West Bromwich Albion loss on July 17, champions status sealed by Brentford losing a day later and then Leeds beating Spygate rivals Derby County for the perfect celebration one day after that.

In the end Bielsa's side finished 10 points clear of second place and 12 above third, with a club-record 93 points to their name.

Biggest improvement needed

Recovering from losing positions.

Leeds were top or almost top of most metrics in the Championship last season and so the biggest challenge for them will be translating that to the Premier League, and that could be made tougher if they continue to struggle when falling behind.

It only happened on 16 occasions last season - the fewest in the division - but from those games they rescued only 11 points, with just five teams saving fewer from losing positions.

The step-up in quality is likely to see them fall behind more often, and so two wins and nine defeats from those 16 matches in which they were losing is a record which will need improving.

Manager: Marcelo Bielsa

Leeds United manager Marcelo Bielsa pictured on July 4, 2020© Reuters

One of the most revered and respected managers in world football, with the likes of Pep Guardiola, Mauricio Pochettino and Diego Simeone counting themselves amongst his students/disciples.

The 65-year-old cannot count any of European football's true giants among his former clubs, but his principles, coaching style and almost obsessive preparation have seen him yield great influence over the next generation of managers from the likes of Lazio, Marseille, Athletic Bilbao, Argentina and Chile.

Bielsa has already written himself into Leeds folklore by securing their return to the Premier League, and he is as adored by the fans as he is by many of his proteges.

Key player: Kalvin Phillips

Kalvin Phillips in action for Leeds United on October 23, 2019© Reuters

New signing Rodrigo Moreno will be important to get the goals Leeds will need to avoid an immediate return to the second tier, but midfielder Kalvin Phillips is a player most expect to make the step up comfortably.

The 24-year-old impressed enough in the Championship to earn a call-up to Gareth Southgate's England squad recently and his international chances are only likely to improve with regular top-flight football.

Phillips has undergone a change in his role under Bielsa and now operates mainly as a defensive midfielder, breaking up play and launching attacks - something which will be even more important in a division where Leeds are likely to be slightly less dominant during matches than they were in the Championship.

Summer transfer business

Rodrigo Moreno in a Leeds kit *NOT TO BE USED IN ARTICLES*© Leeds United FC

Helder Costa (£15.9m, Wolverhampton Wanderers)
Illan Meslier (£5.9m, Lorient)
Joe Gelhardt (£900,000, Wigan Athletic)
Jack Harrison (loan, Manchester City)
Charlie Allen (undisclosed, Linfield)
Cody Drameh (£400,000, Fulham)
Rodrigo Moreno (£27m, Valencia)
Robin Koch (£11.7m, Freiburg)
Diego Llorente (£18m, Real Sociedad)
Raphinha (£15.3m, Rennes)

Will Huffer (free, Bradford Park Avenue)
Ryan Edmondson (loan, Aberdeen)
Laurens De Bock (loan, Zulte Waregem)
Kun Temenuzhkov (loan, Real Union)
Rafa Mujica (loan, Real Oviedo)
Gaetano Berardi (released)
Kamil Miazek (released)
Jordan Stevens (loan, Swindon Town)
Alfie McCalmont (loan, Oldham Athletic)
Bryce Hosannah (loan, Bradford City)
Mateusz Bogusz (loan, Logrones)
Robbie Gotts (loan, Lincoln City)
Barry Douglas (loan, Blackburn Rovers)

Leeds total spent to date: £94.7m
Leeds total received to date: £0

Leeds net transfer balance: -£94.7m


1. Illan Meslier (GK)
2. Luke Ayling (DF)
3. Barry Douglas (DF)
4. Adam Forshaw (MF)
6. Liam Cooper (DF)
7. Ian Poveda (MF)
9. Patrick Bamford (FW)
10. Ezgjan Alioski (DF)
11. Tyler Roberts (FW)
13. Kiko Casilla (GK)
15. Stuart Dallas (DF)
17. Helder Costa (MF)
19. Pablo Hernandez (MF)
21. Pascal Struijk (DF)
22. Jack Harrison (MF)
23. Kalvin Phillips (MF)
24. Leif Davis (DF)
25. Elia Caprile (GK)
30. Joe Gelhardt (FW)
36. Robbie Gotts (MF)
43. Mateusz Klich (MF)
44. Mateusz Bogusz (MF)
46. Jamie Shackleton (MF)
48. Jordan Stevens (MF)
49. Oliver Casey (DF)
- Robin Koch (DF)
- Rodrigo Moreno (FW)

Possible starting XI


Fixture list

Leeds' long-awaited return to the top flight could not get off to a more difficult start as they take on last season's runaway champions Liverpool at Anfield - a place the Reds have not lost a league game since April 2017 and where they dropped only two points last season.

Newly-promoted Fulham visit Elland Road in Leeds' first home game back in the Premier League, but four of their opening five outings come against teams that finished in the top half last season.

April looks particularly daunting with last season's top three of Manchester City, Liverpool and Manchester United all in succession, while they end the campaign at home to fellow new boys West Bromwich Albion.

Leeds United's Ezgjan Alioski celebrates scoring against Fulham on June 27, 2020© Reuters


12: Liverpool (a)

19: Fulham (h)

26: Sheffield United (a)


3: Manchester City (h)

17: Wolves (h)

24: Aston Villa (a)

31: Leicester City (h)


7: Crystal Palace (a)

21: Arsenal (h)

28: Everton (a)

Leeds United's Ezgjan Alioski scores their first goal against West Bromwich Albion on October 1, 2019© Reuters


5: Chelsea (a)

12: West Ham (h)

15: Newcastle (h)

19: Manchester United (a)

26: Burnley (h)

28: West Brom (a)


2: Tottenham (a)

12: Southampton (h)

16: Brighton (h)

27: Newcastle (a)

30: Leicester (a)

Arsenal's Joe Willock and Leeds United's Jack Harrison clash during their FA Cup match in January 2020© Reuters


2: Everton (h)

6: Crystal Palace (h)

13: Arsenal (a)

20: Wolves (a)

27: Aston Villa (h)


6: West Ham (a)

13: Chelsea (h)

20: Fulham (a)


3: Sheffield United (h)

10: Manchester City (a)

17: Liverpool (h)

24: Manchester United (h)

Leeds manager Marcelo Bielsa meets West Bromwich Albion counterpart Slaven Bilic© Reuters


1: Brighton (a)

8: Tottenham (h)

11: Burnley (a)

15: Southampton (a)

23: West Brom (h)

Prediction: 11th

Certain teams come up from the Championship already looking like a Premier League team, and Leeds have that aura about them ahead of the new season.

The signings of Rodrigo Moreno and Robin Koch - both full internationals for Spain and Germany respectively - look like excellent bits of business and, at the time of writing, only Chelsea, Manchester City and Everton have spent more in the summer window.

Big spending is by no means always a guarantee of Premier League survival, but Leeds have bought proven quality and, when you add Bielsa into the equation, the Championship winners look well equipped to safely avoid relegation and even push for a top-half finish.

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General view of Leeds United's Elland Road taken May 2016
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