Leeds’ clash with Fulham could boil down to how Phillips handles their creative spark – opinion

There are several key areas which could determine the outcome of Leeds vs Fulham on Saturday, but Marcelo Bielsa will likely be counting on a reliable figure to show his usual effectiveness.

Key battle

Patrick Bamford continuing his recent goalscoring prowess of five goals in seven games could be very useful, as will Ben White’s handling of Aleksandar Mitrovic, but the battle in the middle of the park is what is most important.

Both teams have been exceptional on the ball this season, with Fulham’s 61% average possession making them the only team to outclass Leeds in that department, who have managed 60%.

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Phillips will be pivotal to Leeds with and without the ball, as he has the ability to disrupt Fulham’s typical free-flowing style by getting in the face of their most creative players.

The Cottagers’ number 10 has been a very important player for Scott Parker and central to a lot of what Fulham do well, as his 90% pass accuracy and 1.9 key passes per game evidence, as per WhoScored.

That may be a worry for most teams, but not for Leeds and Phillips, who has the attributes to not only contain Cairney, but to put his team on the front foot also.

Kalvin Phillips vs Tom Cairney - Leeds' clash with Fulham could boil down to how Phillips handles their creative spark - opinion

According to WhoScored, the 24-year-old has averaged 3.4 tackles per game, a rate bettered by only two players in the Championship.

His stats also evidence his brilliant ability on the ball, which is what makes him so important for Leeds and a big factor which could ensure his team picks up all three points.

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If he can help to dictate play and show his usual class in terms of completing key passes and long balls, then Fulham should struggle.

Cairney is not the type of midfielder who will be able to pressure Phillips and contain his influence, as his defensive attributes indicate, and that means there should be an opportunity for Leeds’ more creative players to influence the match.

If they manage that, and show better concentration then they did against Cardiff then they will be in a very strong position to extend their 11-game unbeaten run, and widen the gap between the other promotion contenders – including Fulham of course.

Here is how Leeds should line-up as they search for another valuable three points in West London.

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