Birmingham City v Leeds United – Double-header can be key for Marcelo Bielsa’s men

BY a strange quirk of the fixture computer, Leeds United today head to St Andrews five days before the other Yorkshire club chasing automatic promotion make the same journey.
Leeds United's Kiko Casilla: On the way back.Leeds United's Kiko Casilla: On the way back.
Leeds United's Kiko Casilla: On the way back.

Then, on Tuesday, Leeds will rock up at Deepdale a little under 75 hours after Sheffield United have done battle with Preston North End at a venue that has been hosting League football since the very start in 1888.

To follow in each other’s footsteps like this is rare and chances are this unusual double-header could go a long way to deciding which of the White Rose duo can put their feet up come May 5, safe in the knowledge Premier League football has been secured.

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Fifteen points will still be up for grabs after the Blades’ trip to Birmingham on Wednesday night. Leeds’ next fixture will also be at home to a resurgent Sheffield Wednesday, a big test at any time but even more so when the Owls are desperate for points of their own in the quest to gatecrash the top six.

But there remains a feeling that these back-to-back trips to Preston and Birmingham could prove pivotal in deciding who goes up with the seemingly unstoppable Norwich City.

Marcelo Bielsa, for his part, is refusing to rule out West Bromwich Albion in the race for automatic.

Even so, he is well aware of the dangers likely to be posed today by the team who inflicted his first Championship defeat.

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“Birmingham, after they beat us at Elland Road (on September 22), they started a long period where they showed a high level with this team,” said the Argentinian, who welcomes back Kiko Casilla and top scorer Kemar Roofe.

“With good strikers and wingers, they are very solid in defence. In the first game, I did not feel all these skills. After, they showed these skills in long period after they played with us.

“The fact they beat us is not the only reason to respect them. We respect them a lot, too, because of what they have done all season.”

Birmingham, recently deducted nine points for breaching profitability and sustainability rules, have lost their last five games.

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As the Blues proved earlier this season at Elland Road, however, this team is capable of snapping out of a poor run with a shock win.

Che Adams’s two first-half goals against Leeds not only condemned Bielsa to a first league loss in England but it also ended an eight-game winless start to the Championship season for Garry Monk’s men.