David Moyes knows how to slow a game down, how to create a tense and static affair in which the opponent is forced to play at a pace that prevents them from cutting through that solid West Ham defence. And Leeds United, for all the talk of hard pressing and wild attacking football, are relatively easily tamed by the kind of conservative approach that Moyes has deployed so successfully in east London.
The likes of Aston Villa, Burnley, Brighton and Wolves have all played out one-goal games against Leeds this season. Expect a pretty tough watch on Monday, defined by a rough-and-ready midfield battle as two well-organised shapes struggle to prise each other open.
Key battle zone
Leeds are prone to being caught on the break if they are lured too far forward while in possession, which West Ham will attempt to do. The power in Declan Rice and Tomas Soucek’s partnership in central midfield will encourage Leeds into wide areas, where the wingers will be joined by midfielders in the hope of creating overloads on the flanks.
This may mean a lot of space centrally when West Ham turn the ball over, and in the transition Jesse Lingard and Pablo Fornals could flourish. Lingard has been a revelation, ghosting intelligently into space between the lines to dictate the play on the break, so with Leeds light on numbers here, and still without Kalvin Phillips, West Ham may dominate in the number ten zone.
Keep an eye on… Raphinha versus Coufal
From a Leeds perspective, in-form Raphinha is increasingly being required to break through opponents on his own, weaving past opposition right-backs to carry Leeds through this exhausting schedule. He has three goals and three assists in his last eight matches, but will comes up against a formidable challenge this weekend in Vladimir Coufal – who has got to be in the running for Premier League team of the season.
Coufal has been immense for Moyes and his head-to-head with Raphinha promises to be the most interesting of the match. If the West Ham man comes out on top, then Leeds are likely to struggle to create enough chances to avoid defeat.
One to watch… Michail Antonio
Knowing how many players Leeds pour forward in attack, often including both full-backs, this is the sort of game that could favour Michail Antonio. After West Ham absorb pressure, he will be expected to run the challenges and yank his team up the pitch, holding off challenges from the centre-backs or running in behind Bielsa’s high line.
With the hosts in such good form, and with a counter-attacking tactical strategy that seems perfect to nullify Leeds’ threat and catch them out on the break, it is hard to look past an Antonio-inspired West Ham picking up three points.
Odds correct at the time of publication. 18+ Please Gamble Responsibly. Visit begambleaware.org