Sam Allardyce must produce a positive result as the Premier League relegation scrap heats up. Look ahead to Saturday’s Elland Road duel with our Leeds vs Newcastle prediction and preview.
Leeds vs Newcastle: Quick Hits
- The Opta supercomputer gives Leeds a 75% chance of being relegated this season.
- Newcastle are considered firm favourites in this match, with the Opta prediction model saying they have a 41.2% probability of winning.
- Only Erling Haaland has a better goals average than Callum Wilson in the Premier League this season (0.77 per 90 minutes).
It all starts here for Leeds and Sam Allardyce. The former Newcastle and England manager was appointed last week following the end of Javi Gracia’s short reign, but realistically there was never much hope for them away to Manchester City in their first match together.
The 2-1 defeat at the Etihad Stadium arguably defied expectations given Leeds’ recent record. Yet, that was obviously not reflected in the table, with Leeds dropping into the relegation zone. With three games to go, that’s not exactly ideal.
After spending 16 seasons away from the Premier League, heading back to the Championship just three years after promotion would be a massive disappointment for Leeds, particularly given the promise shown in 2020-21.
On Saturday, they’ll at least have the ‘Elland Road factor’ in their favour. With it being Allardyce’s first home game and Leeds’ situation getting desperate, we can surely expect a raucous atmosphere in West Yorkshire.
But that alone won’t be enough against a Newcastle side whose Premier League points tally since their last trip to Elland Road – a 1-0 win in January 2022 – is the fourth most (102) in the division, and 56 more than Leeds’ 46 over the same period. Eddie Howe’s men have surged up in our Opta Power Rankings too, with the Magpies now the 16th strongest side in the world, 113 spots above their weekend opponents.
Newcastle also have a strong historical record at Leeds in the Premier League, having won on seven of their 13 previous visits. They’re the only side the Magpies have won over half of their visits to in the competition (minimum five matches).
Nevertheless, this won’t be the first time Leeds have played a game while in the relegation zone this season, and on each of the previous four occasions they’ve risen to the challenge, winning each such match. In fact, that’s one win more than in their 31 games when not in the bottom three this term, and they also beat Brentford on the last day of the 2021-22 season having started the day 18th.
If Leeds continue that streak on Saturday, they’ll be the first team in Premier League history to win six successive matches when starting the day in the drop zone. And on top of that, Allardyce has won more league games against Newcastle than any other side (13).
But if Leeds and Allardyce’s luck takes a turn, expect the Opta supercomputer’s output to look even grimmer.
Heading into the weekend, it rates Leeds as 75% likely to be relegated, and their run-in consisting of Newcastle (H), West Ham (A) and Tottenham (H) is considered among the most difficult.
It’s also worth remembering Newcastle still have plenty to play for themselves. If they were to lose, Manchester United could overtake them and Liverpool could join them on 65 points. Granted, the Magpies would still have a game in hand on Jurgen Klopp’s men, but it would make their final three matches unnecessarily tense.
Eddie Howe doesn’t have any new injury concerns to contend with, though, as Sean Longstaff remains the only regular starter missing. Allardyce and Leeds continue to be without Luis Sinisterra, Liam Cooper, Stuart Dallas and Tyler Adams.
As good as Newcastle have been this season, the last month has revealed a few chinks in the armour, with Howe’s side losing to Aston Villa and, most recently, Arsenal. There were three wins sandwiched between, but it’s been enough for an in-form Liverpool to shrink the gap significantly.
Leeds’ form has been much worse, though. In their past five games they’ve suffered four defeats, with the disappointing 1-1 draw at home to fellow strugglers Leicester City the one point amassed from a possible 15.
Conceding goals has been the biggest issue for Leeds. Although they’ve scored in each of their past 10 league games, 15 goals in total, they have also conceded at least once on each of those occasions, shipping 29.
And since the start of April, their 25 goals conceded is the most in the Premier League. Newcastle’s 22 scored… Well, you probably know where we’re going with this… Yes, also a league high in that time.
The Magpies also boast a decent recent record on the road, winning four of their past five, which is as many as in their first 12 away games this season. One more victory on their travels and they’ll equal a 22-year high of nine from 2001-02.
But, Newcastle do tend to give their opponents a chance. While they have the best defensive record in the Premier League (goals against: 29), they’ve kept just one clean sheet in their past 14 league games, with Leicester (none) the only side to record fewer shutouts than them since the start of February (one).
Newcastle 0-0 Leeds: 31 December 2022 (Premier League)
While Newcastle were disappointed to not beat a struggling Leeds at home on New Year’s Eve, given the significance of the day much of the focus was on their journey from finishing 2021 19th in the table, to finding themselves third after this match at the end of 2022.
Their position would’ve been even better had they beaten Leeds as they’d have gone second, but they struggled to make the most of their dominance, with 2.2 expected goals (xG) the fourth highest a team has managed without scoring this season.
Fabian Schar and Miguel Almiron missed decent first-half opportunities, before the former controversially had a penalty shout ignored when Adams appeared to trip him.
The Swiss defender spurned another decent chance early in the second half, then Illan Meslier produced tremendous saves to thwart Chris Wood and Schar again as time wound down. Longstaff subsequently blazed over near the end.
Newcastle’s wastefulness ensured they ended a sixth successive year without a win in their final game. However, it took their points tally at home for 2022 to 41, with only Liverpool (48) and Man City (44) doing better in front of their own supporters over the 12 months.
The result also meant Leeds had gone unbeaten in four consecutive away league games against Newcastle for the first time.
Previous meeting line-ups:
Newcastle United: Nick Pope, Kieran Trippier, Sven Botman, Fabian Schär, Dan Burn, Joelinton, Joe Willock, Sean Longstaff, Bruno Guimarães, Chris Wood, Miguel Almirón. Used Subs: Callum Wilson, Allan Saint-Maximin, Jacob Murphy.
Leeds United: Illan Meslier, Luke Ayling, Robin Koch, Liam Cooper, Pascal Struijk, Adam Forshaw, Brenden Aaronson, Jack Harrison, Tyler Adams, Rodrigo, Wilfried Gnonto. Used Subs: Rasmus Kristensen, Marc Roca, Mateusz Klich, Crysencio Summerville, Joe Gelhardt.
Leeds: Joel Robles
As much as Leeds will hope the Elland Road crowd roars them on to a dominant victory, there’s every reason to expect Newcastle will put them under pressure and create chances. They’re too good not to.
Leeds have kept just two clean sheets this calendar year – with Leicester (none) the only Premier League side to record fewer – and conceded the most goals (40, six more than any other team), so that gives us an idea of how defensively sound – or otherwise – they’ve been.
That has obviously been a focus of Allardyce during his first week or so at the helm, hence his decision to drop Illan Meslier for the trip to Man City, with Joel Robles coming into the side for his league debut for the club.
While it may have been seen as a bold call, the rationale behind the decision was fairly obvious. As highly rated as Meslier may be, his record this season is poor. According to our goals prevented data, he should have conceded 12.1 goals fewer than he has, with Gavin Bazunu (16.2) the only goalkeeper with a worse figure this term.
Similarly, Hugo Lloris (four) is the only keeper to make more errors leading to goals than Meslier (three). That kind of unreliability could be a death sentence in a relegation battle, but a sudden improvement might just give Leeds the edge they need.
Certainly, Robles deputised well at the Etihad Stadium, and his experience could count for a lot in the final weeks if he’s able to offer more consistency than Meslier in goal.
Newcastle: Callum Wilson
Rest assured, Newcastle fans. The players know how precarious their position in the top four now is after that defeat to Arsenal.
Or, at least Wilson does, saying on the Footballer’s Football Podcast this week:
“Liverpool need to relax! I said I could smell [the Champions League] a couple of weeks ago. Now that scent is gone, I don’t know where it’s gone. [Pretends to sniff] I can’t find it!”
It’s not often you hear Premier League players speak so candidly, and it’s fair to say Wilson is probably one of the players who can ease the pressure somewhat given he’s Newcastle’s leading scorer.
In fact, his goalscoring exploits this season have arguably gone under the radar. His tally of 15 has come despite making just 18 league starts – the only player to have netted more than nine from fewer starts is Alexander Isak (10 from 13).
The England international is scoring 0.77 non-penalty goals every 90 minutes, second only (minimum 1,000 minutes played) to Erling Haaland (0.97) and is finding the net once in every four shots – the only players with at least six goals who need fewer efforts to score are Phil Foden (one goal every 3.8 shots) and Haaland (3.3).
Sure, he may not start every game, but Wilson’s productivity in front of goal makes him a potential gamechanger, and at this point of the season when you’re hoping to sniff out Champions League football, that’s a very handy weapon to have.
Leeds vs Newcastle Prediction
Leeds fans might be pleasantly surprised by the Opta supercomputer giving their side a 30.8% chance of victory on Saturday. Clearly, there’s been little to get optimistic about lately, but the prediction model considers them to have a decent opportunity of getting at least a point.
The draw comes in at 28%, which leaves Newcastle’s win probability at 41.2%. Obviously, this makes the visitors favourites, and Leeds’ score is the third lowest of the teams playing at home this weekend, but Allardyce’s men have a 58.8% likelihood of avoiding defeat.
Considering their desperate situation, it might benefit them to remain as optimistic as possible, and let’s not forget Allardyce’s excellent record against his former club.
Either way, Leeds now have little room for error – lose on Saturday and it’ll take something special from their final two games to spare them from relegation.