Daniel Farke backs Leeds United players to rise to the big occasion once more in Championship play-offs

Leeds United's record on the big occasions this season gives manager Daniel Farke confidence they can lift themselves for the Championship play-offs.

Having missed out on automatic promotion with a late-season wobble, Leeds find their campaign going into extra-time.

The first leg of their semi-final against Farke's former club, Norwich City, is at Carrow Road at 12.00pm on Sunday, with the Elland Road return on Thursday. Patrick Bamford will miss both.

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The winners will play at Wembley on May 26 – the Football League confirmed on Friday the game will kick off at 3pm – for the right to play in next season's Premier League.

Leeds have never won the play-offs but those failures came with an almost entirely different group of players and a different coaching staff. More relevant, certainly in Farke's eyes, is the ability they have shown this season to produce their best in what he calls "spotlight games".

"It's always felt during the whole season that when there is a special occasion, we were there," said Farke, whose side ended what until then had been an impressive regular season with two wins from their final eight matches.

"We played twice against Leicester and won two times, we played twice against Ipswich, we won two times.

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"Yes, a bit more consistency sometimes on the days when it was another day at the office would have been great but with 90 points you can't complain too much about a lack of consistency.

INJURY: Leeds United striker Patrick BamfordINJURY: Leeds United striker Patrick Bamford
INJURY: Leeds United striker Patrick Bamford

"The feeling in the spotlight games is this team is spot on. Right now we have two spotlight games and I'm optimistic that we can repeat this mentality."

It means no attempt to downplay this tie as just two more games, as some managers like to do at this time of year.

"It's an important game, you can’t hide it, the players are not stupid," said Farke, who is experiencing the play-offs for the first time, having won the title twice with Norwich. "Right now it's the semi-final of the play-offs, you can earn the right to play at Wembley, it's more like a do-or-die competition.

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"They know it’s a spotlight game and we don’t hide behind the fact, but on the other hand we don’t change too much in the approach or the preparation. We won’t overdo anything but we don't want to hide the fact that it's a special game that really counts and we need to be on it and really focused and concentrated but also confident."

As they stumbled towards the finish line, Farke bemoaned a lack of experience, and he will have to do without one of his most senior players, Bamford, over the next two games, although Wales winger Daniel James could feature.

Bamford missed the last couple of matches of the regular season with what was thought to be a bruised knee, but further investigations have shown it to be more serious.

Winger James has also not played since the 4-3 victory at Middlesbrough on April 22.

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"Daniel James is making good progress,” explained Farke. "He's joined in parts of team training. It will be a tight race, but he could be an option for the travelling squad. I'm not sure if he's ready for 90 minutes.

"Patrick will definitely miss both legs of this semi-final.

"He's seen a different knee consultant and the new diagnosis is there's a mini-trauma in his patella tendon. We weren't aware of this before."

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