The Marcelo Bielsa era at Leeds has been an unforgettable one – and it’s been less than a year – but the end of the regular season has not been as bright as the beginning and they might fall at the second last hurdle against Derby in the playoffs today.
Frank Lampard – who had an infamous ‘Spygate’ run in with Bielsa, when Leeds sent a member of staff to watch a Derby training session from a nearby field before the game between the two in January and their manager, Marcelo Bielsa, subsequently revealed he had done the same for all their opponents this season – has had a rollercoaster season but he has picked up the hang of management quickly and there’s no doubt that his side is now much improved.
The table might have suggested that Derby have snuck into the playoffs but their 3-1 win against fourth-placed West Brom – when they won the shot count 22-8, the shots on target 12-2, and the corner count 5-2 – was nothing less than they deserved. That made it 25 goals in their last nine matches, and 6 games unbeaten to end the season.
The movement and effort of Mason Mount, Harry Wilson, Mason Bennett and Tom Lawrence, is the sharp edge of the side but they have developed plenty of steel over the season and Bradley Johnson, Scott Malone and Player Of The Year Fiakayo Tomori give them ballast in the midfield battle.
Leeds – like so many Bielsa teams – have ended the season in reverse compared to their blistering start and it must be a worry that the high octane football the squad has played has now taken a permanent toll. It’s not only the last few weeks which have given this impression – from their final 21 league games they’ve taken just 32 points, which translates to 70 over the course of the season – a tally that wouldn’t have earned them a place in the playoffs.
Derby County v Leeds United
Championship Play-Off Semi-Final 1st Leg
17:15 Sky Sports Football HD / Sky Sports Main Event HD
HEAD TO HEAD RECORD
(Maximum 10 matches, past 10 years)
JAN 2019 CHAMPIONSHIP Leeds 2-0 Derby
AUG 2018 CHAMPIONSHIP Derby 1-4 Leeds
FEB 2018 CHAMPIONSHIP Derby 2-2 Leeds
OCT 2017 CHAMPIONSHIP Leeds 1-2 Derby
JAN 2017 CHAMPIONSHIP Leeds 1-0 Derby
OCT 2016 CHAMPIONSHIP Derby 1-0 Leeds
DEC 2015 CHAMPIONSHIP Leeds 2-2 Derby
AUG 2015 CHAMPIONSHIP Derby 1-2 Leeds
DEC 2014 CHAMPIONSHIP Derby 2-0 Leeds
NOV 2014 CHAMPIONSHIP Leeds 2-0 Derby
Leeds have been badly missing Barry Douglas since he ruptured knee ligaments with Stuart Dallas covering two missing players at left-back, Gjanni Alioski’s season-ending injury at Brentford robbed Leeds of crucial pace in the frontline for the end of the season, but the more crucial absence might be Patrick Bamford’s suspension in the aftermath of that melee against Aston Villa.
Whoever takes to the field today will put in 110% for the visitors, but Derby might be playing them at the perfect time and they can take a lead to Elland Road.
RECOMMENDED BETS (scale of 1-100 points)
BACK DERBY 5 pts at 2/1 with starsports.bet
PROFIT/LOSS SINCE JAN 1 2017: PROFIT 242.17 points
(excluding Premier League ante-post, Byron Classic)