Crawley Town v Leeds United – Chance to mix it with ‘smaller team’ welcomed by Marcelo Bielsa

As a footballing romantic and a man of principle, the FA Cup is right up Leeds United coach Marcelo Bielsa’s street.

Captain Liam Cooper is expected back in action for Leeds United against Crawley Town today. Picture: David Klein/Sportimage

For the Argentinian, the chance to play at League Two Crawley is not just an opportunity to “pay homage” to a revered competition, but also to spread some good – needed more than ever in these difficult times – down the footballing pyramid.

“For me it represents English football in its purest form,” he says. “It allows you to link with the history of the clubs in England. That’s why I’m very happy to be in this competition.

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“The fact that we have to analyse the opponent we’re going to face it allows you take a look into League Two, for example, and the stadia, the styles of play and the players. This is very good.

RESPECT DUE: Leeds United head coach Marcelo Bielsa. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe

“Leeds shouldn’t lose contact with the base of football in this country. Those teams give nutrient to the pyramid of the league. The ambition to play against these top teams has to be available.

“I feel it’s healthy for the bigger teams to be able to help the smaller teams and be generous with them. An expression of generosity is to compete with them as equals.

“If you were to tell me the calendar was full of fixtures, I would say yes; that the teams play more games than they should, I would say yes; that the players suffer due to the excess of minutes played, I would say yes; if the industry in football over-observes its (own) interests, I would say yes.

“(But) this is a competition which is the essence of the country and we pay homage to it by competing.”

As a lover of football, Bielsa loves the lower leagues as well as the glamour end his club has reached this season.

“There are players from Leeds United participating in those leagues and on a weekly basis (on loan),” he says. “I have a look at their performances and that’s my contact with these leagues.

“It’s a lot more difficult now but in my first two years whenever I had the time I would go to a League One or Two game to watch because I really enjoyed the ambience.

“For me it’s very attractive to see the full colour of these small teams.

“It’s very easy to love one of the top five teams in the world but its a lot more difficult to love a team in the bottom five places of League One, for example.

“It’s very nice to see the affection fans have for teams that are not as big.”

Captain Liam Cooper is expected back from injury today, though caution will be taken with fellow centre-back Diego Llorente.

Bielsa was also asked if he agreed with West Bromwich Albion manager Sam Allardyce’s recent support for a football “circuit-breaker” to help against Covid-19.

“I understand the comment Sam Allardyce made,” he said.

“It’s an absolutely logical thought.

“I don’t think those who are in charge of the competitions and the Government would take any risks with professional footballers. I trust that the decisions being made are being taken with consideration.”

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