Leeds United will surely need to pick up some positive results in their final four games if they are going to maintain their Premier League status this season.
Only goal difference sees the Yorkshire outfit sit ahead of Nottingham Forest in the bottom three as it stands, and with games against high-flying Manchester City and Newcastle United to come, Sam Allardyce must find a way of improving a Leeds defence which has struggled all season long.
No side in the Premier League has conceded more than Leeds and with a trip to the league leaders to come on Saturday, Allardyce will be searching for ways to keep the prolific Erling Haaland quiet at the Etihad.
The Norwegian forward has crashed in a record-breaking 35 goals in his first season in the Prmeier League and will be looking to add to his tally again on Saturday against a Leeds side that have leaked goals in recent weeks.
However, Allardyce could find a potential solution for the former Borussia Dortmund man in Pascal Struijk, as the Dutchman has been a rare bright spark in a shocking season for the Yorkshire outfit.
Should Leeds start Struijk against Manchester City?
According to WhoScored, the 23-year-old has been the top-performing player at Elland Road with a solid 6.77 rating across his 25 Premier League appearances so far this term.
Defensive concentration will be vital if Leeds are going to keep out Haaland, and Struijk’s impressive average of three tackles per game this season (the second-best in Allardyce’s squad), suggests that he could be the man to stop the powerful forward when he inevitably gets put through on goal by City’s creative outlets.
While Struijk cannot be described as the quickest of defenders, he certainly boasts a decent turn of speed which the other defenders, notably Max Wober and Liam Cooper, arguably lack.
A deep defensive line will have to be a must for Leeds and Allardyce on Sunday, or they risk it becoming far too easy for the electric Haaland to go in on goal, and at six-foot-three, Struijk certainly possesses the physicality to deal with Haaland in the air, as is evidenced by his return of 2.1 aerials won per game vs the Man City man’s average of 1.4 aerials per game.
The £50k-per-week defender certainly still has a lot of potential and has perhaps been underused by Leeds at times this season, given that journalist Conor McGilligan dubbed him a “ridiculous talent” earlier in the season.
If Leeds can force City to play the ball long to Haaland by playing a deep line, then Struijk could be the ideal man for Allardyce to select at the back as he looks to keep him quiet.