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The Jack Harrison show took centre stage during Leeds’ battle with West Ham at the London Stadium last time out, as the former Manchester City man took home the match ball after propelling the Whites to a crucial win over the top-four challengers.
Twice Harrison saw his goals cancelled out by Jarrod Bowen and Pablo Fornals in the capital, but the 25-year-old’s third of the day proved to be the decisive strike, with Bowen guilty of wasting a gilt-edged chance to level the scores once again late on.
Having gained an immediate measure of revenge after being dumped out of the FA Cup by the Hammers, Leeds and their 100% start to the Premier League in 2022 have risen to 15th in the standings – nine points above the relegation zone with a game in hand on 18th-placed Norwich City.
Bielsa’s side endured a wholly forgettable first half of the campaign, but they could now win as many games in the first month of 2022 as they did throughout the entire second half of 2021, although their long-standing defensive issues are still coming to the fore.
Indeed, a tally of 39 goals conceded is the most outside the bottom three, and they have shipped 19 of those strikes in their last seven top-flight games, so Newcastle would choose no better time to take advantage of such woes and improve the mood at St James’ Park.
Leeds did not come through the win over West Ham unscathed, as Junior Firpo and Adam Forshaw were both early casualties with thigh problems, although the latter has played down the issue as a “small” injury.
Diego Llorente will return from a ban to bolster the Whites’ defence, but Patrick Bamford, Kalvin Phillips, Liam Cooper, Joe Gelhardt, Jamie Shackleton, Tyler Roberts and Charlie Cresswell remain sidelined.
Llorente’s return to the defence could see Stuart Dallas feature on the left-hand side to cover for the injured Firpo, as Luke Ayling returns to the right flank, while Daniel James could find his place up top under threat from Rodrigo.
As for Newcastle, Javier Manquillo is back from a ban to bolster Howe’s defensive options, but centre-backs Ciaran Clark (COVID-19) and Federico Fernandez (thigh) remain absent for the time being.
Callum Wilson is still facing around another six weeks out of action as Wood prepares to spearhead the attack again, and Isaac Hayden will also be sidelined until March with his knee problem.
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Jamal Lewis could come into contention for a start over Paul Dummett on the left-hand side, but Howe will otherwise likely stick with the same formula from the Watford draw.
Leeds United possible starting lineup:
Meslier; Ayling, Llorente, Struijk, Dallas; Koch; Raphinha, Forshaw, Klich, Harrison; Rodrigo
Newcastle United possible starting lineup:
Dubravka; Trippier, Lascelles, Schar, Lewis; Longstaff, Shelvey, Joelinton; Fraser, Wood, Saint-Maximin