From the highs of establishing themselves as a force to be reckoned with in the Premier League to the lows of a likely relegation dogfight, it has been quite the topsy-turvy year for Leeds United.
Prior to seeing their games with Liverpool and Villa being called off, Marcelo Bielsa’s side lost three from three against Chelsea, Manchester City and Arsenal, but it would have taken something special indeed to get one over the top-four outfits.
The Whites prepare to enter 2022 16th in the Premier League table and five points clear of the relegation zone after Burnley’s defeat against Man United, so the highly-experienced Bielsa would choose no better time to weave his old magic and steady the Elland Road ship.
Leeds can take some solace in the fact that their 4-1 loss to Arsenal represents their only defeat in their last six Premier League contests at home, and the hosts have only failed to score in one of their last 11 top-flight games at Elland Road – finding the back of the net in each of their last seven.
Not since the Championship days of the 2014-15 season have Leeds lost four league encounters on the bounce, and given Burnley’s troubles on the road throughout much of 2021, the home crowd can afford to enter the New Year with a cautious sense of optimism for Sunday’s game.
Even amid Man United’s struggles to dominate matches under the tutelage of Ralf Rangnick, attempting to get one over the Red Devils at Old Trafford was a bridge too far for Burnley, who slumped to a 3-1 defeat on Thursday night.
Scott McTominay, Cristiano Ronaldo and a Ben Mee own goal put the game beyond the Clarets’ reach by the 35-minute mark, and even though veteran attacker Aaron Lennon threatened a comeback with his own effort before the break, United shut up shop in the second period.
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Another fight to retain their top-flight status awaits Burnley in 2022, as Sean Dyche’s side occupy 18th spot in the table, but 17th-placed Watford and upcoming opponents Leeds are within touching distance as the Clarets aim to take advantage of their games in hand.
It is now six games without victory for Burnley in the Premier League, though, and they are one of only two sides in the English top flight – along with Newcastle United – yet to win away from home this term, but a trip to fellow strugglers Leeds could be a prime opportunity to end that barren streak.
Burnley and Leeds played out a 1-1 draw in their clash at Turf Moor earlier in the campaign, but the Whites managed to prevail 1-0 at Elland Road this time last year thanks to a fifth-minute penalty from talisman Patrick Bamford