HEAD Coach Marcelo Bielsa points to Leeds United’s only Championship defeat of the season as the reason why his side cannot afford to let their high standards slip tonight against struggling Hull City.
The Tigers, fourth bottom in the table, have won just two and lost six of their ten outings this term, a record that is in stark contrast to that of second-placed Leeds.
Bookmakers have Bielsa’s side down as firm favourites for this clash between East and West, but Bielsa will not be taking much notice of those odds after losing his unbeaten record in the second tier last month to Birmingham City.
“You don’t see the difference between the leading teams and the other teams when they play one against each other,” he said. “We all know the games that we are going to play will be more difficult than the table indicates.
“The game we lost, we lost it against a team who were not from the upper part of the table.”
Birmingham’s victory at Elland Road remains the only one Garry Monk’s side have managed all season, while Leeds also needed a last-minute equaliser to rescue a point against second bottom Millwall last month.
These two results underline why the Championship is once again regarded as the most competitive and unpredictable competition in English football. Asked what he was expecting from Hull in tonight’s all Yorkshire clash, Bielsa replied: “I couldn’t really tell you. For some teams you know what game you are expecting, like Millwall or Middlesbrough.
“Or a different style when you play against Derby or Norwich, when you know what team you will face.
“Against Hull, they can play like Middlesbrough or Derby or maybe it will be a mix of both styles.
“This is what we answer when we don’t know what to say.”
Bielsa may not quite be sure what lays in store on his first visit to the KCOM Stadium, but he does want to see his side in a more clinical mood than last Friday at Sheffield Wednesday when United had to settle for a point despite dominating for long periods.
“Sometimes you do the right thing and you don’t get the result,” added the Argentinian, whose side had 25 attempts on goal at Hillsborough.
“Sometimes you do the wrong thing and you get the result.
“If you don’t do the right thing you can’t assume you will get the right result in the long term. If you do things right at the end of the day you will get what you deserve.
“We work on the finishing. If you are efficient in training sessions it does not mean you have the guarantee to be efficient during the games. We work on creating chances to score.
“As head coach you can’t have an influence on the result. You can work on the chances to score, but you can’t work on how good the finishing is.
“The leading teams in all competitions usually need three chances to actually score. The leading teams are not always big teams. If you are very efficient you can lead the table even if you are not a big team.
“If you are not efficient, even if you are a big team and create a lot of chances, you might not occupy the rank you deserve. In a nutshell, efficiency is very important in football.”
After netting 14 times in the opening five league games United have managed just six in an identical number of outings since then. Losing Pablo Hernandez and Kemar Roofe, who between them netted half of those goals in August, to injury has played a part, especially with £7m signing Patrick Bamford also out long-term with a knee problem.
Neither Hernandez nor Roofe will be back tonight or on Saturday against Brentford in the lunchtime kick-off, Bielsa instead expecting to see the duo when the Championship resumes after the international break with a trip to Blackburn Rovers on October 20.
In their absence Leeds’s head coach is hoping intensive work on the training ground can pep up his side’s conversion rate in front of goal.
He added: “There is a routine of exercises that we do for finishing, with 14 different points and 14 different ways to finish an action.
“We see all the kind of goals we can score in football. It is a very short exercise. In ten or 15 minutes we do all the different situations. We have to repeat this kind of exercise many times.
“The mistake allows you to improve your skills. With a professional footballer a good thing is to work on the finish once each way because at the second or third attempt he is trained enough and will finish well.
“That is why we make them shoot just one time for this exercise. We reproduce what we find in a game. Apart from the skill that you need this is linked to state of mind, luck and many factors.”
Bielsa could name the same starting XI for the fifth game in a row tonight, Gaetano Berardi also still absent through injury.
Last six games: Hull City LLLWLLD Leeds United LDDWLD.
Referee: D Bond (Lancashire).
Last time: Hull City 0 Leeds United 0; January 30, 2018; Championship.