Leeds United v Reading: Why tightness of promotion race surprises Marcelo Bielsa

LEEDS UNITED head coach Marcelo Bielsa admits to being surprised at how tight the Championship promotion race remains heading towards December.

Leeds United manager Marcelo Bielsa. I was not expecting that so many teams would be able to fight for first.
Leeds United manager Marcelo Bielsa. I was not expecting that so many teams would be able to fight for first.

The Elland Road club sit third in the table, just three points adrift of leaders Norwich City and three points ahead of Nottingham Forest in seventh place.

Victory tonight over Reading could bring a return to the summit for Leeds, depending on how Daniel Farke’s Canaries fare at Hull City and whether Middlesbrough can beat Preston North End.

Alternatively, a defeat and results elsewhere tomorrow night could see Bielsa’s men heading to Sheffield United on Saturday sitting outside the top six for the first time this season.

“The league has not yet taken shape,” said Bielsa, who welcomes back goalkeeper Bailey Peacock-Farrell from injury against the Royals.

“I already knew it was going to be a difficult competition but I was not expecting that so many teams would be able to fight for the first ranking. I also thought it would be easier for some teams to show they had a good level.

“I am never sure that the good moments will last and I am not sure that we will be able to overcome our difficult moments.

“How many times are we going to play well and when will we have our downs? If we think that we will always play well then we are ignoring the reality that all teams go through.

Set for return: Leeds United goalkeeper Bailey Peacock-Farrell (Picture: Richard Sellers/PA Wire)

“Up until now, all the leading teams have had ups and downs.”

Leeds have had four different spells leading the way in the Championship this term. Others to enjoy the view from the summit include Chris Wilder’s Blades, West Bromwich Albion, Middlesbrough and Norwich to underline the competitive nature of the second tier.

“If you have a look at the results after every game it is very hard to say who is at the top of the table and who is at the bottom of the table,” added Bielsa.

“You would tell that me that the best are at the top and the worst are at the bottom but when a team at the top plays a team at the bottom, there is not much difference. The leading teams are not that superior to the teams at the bottom and when I analyse Reading, they are not a weak team. They have strong players and when I look at their performances, they are not fragile.”

Pontus Jansson remains sidelined tonight with the foot injury that kept the Swede out against Bristol City at the weekend but Liam Cooper is fine despite receiving treatment for a knee problem during the 2-0 victory over Lee Johnson’s men.

“Jansson won’t be available and Bailey can be a starter against Reading,” said Bielsa.

Pushed on whether Jansson may be available for the televised game at Bramall Lane on Saturday, the Argentinian added: “At the beginning, he was supposed to be available for last Saturday and then Reading.

“But it was not the case and that is why I would like to be cautious before saying he can play next Saturday.”

Last six games: Leeds United LWDWLW, Reading WLLWDD.

Referee: M Dean (Merseyside).

Last time: Leeds United 0 Reading 1; October 14, 2017; Championship.