Leeds United cannot afford to see red again, insists Jesse Marsch

JESSE MARSCH has acknowledged that a third red card in successive matches has the potential to be a season-wrecker for his Leeds United side on Sunday.

Leeds United's Dan James challenges Chelsea's Mateo Kovacic, a tackle he received a straight red card for. Picture: Tony Johnson
Leeds United's Dan James challenges Chelsea's Mateo Kovacic, a tackle he received a straight red card for. Picture: Tony Johnson

Relegation-threatened Leeds will be in the bottom three of the Premier League when they take the field against in-form Brighton at Elland Road (2pm).

Should they lose and relegation rivals Burnley, who kick off at Tottenham Hotspur at noon and Everton – who welcome Brentford in the late kick-off at Goodison Park – both win, then United would effectively be relegated due to their goal difference.

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Red cards picked up by Dan James and Luke Ayling in the first half of Leeds’s last two matches against Chelsea and Arsenal have proved costly in more ways than one for Marsch’s side.

Referee Chris Kavanagh showing a red card to United's Luke Ayling at Arsenal. Picture: Mike Egerton/PA Wire.

Both games have ended in defeat and the pair will take no further part this season for United, who are also without Stuart Dallas, Adam Forshaw, Tyler Roberts and Crysencio Summerville for the remainder of 2021-22.

Raphinha and Jack Harrison should be available for tomorrow’s game, but Marsch accepts that Leeds can ill afford any more self-inflicted suspensions.

The American has regularly spoken about the need for his players to show intensity and aggression in their survival flight, but has dismissed suggestions that they have been too pent-up ahead of recent games.

Leeds have already amassed a record 97 yellow cards in one Premier League campaign, breaking the previous record of 94 set by Sunderland in 2014-15 season.

They are on course to become the first top-flight side to reach an unwanted century if things don’t change fast.

Admitting that talks have been held in-house among staff regarding their motivational approach with players, Marsch said: “I asked that internally with our coaching staff and we said: ‘Are we overmotivating?’

“My last talk which I gave to the team in the locker room before the Chelsea match was calm.

“But obviously, we have a team which is aggressive and who, especially at home, wants to achieve for their fans and perform. We are aware of the fact that it killed us in our last two matches and that we cannot have that again.

“We want to be aggressive, but not overzealous and know that the best way to give ourselves a chance is to not jeopardise the match by picking up red cards, especially in the first half.

“It has certainly been a discussion point. Whether it is discipline, pressure of the moment or that the players want to achieve so badly, it is a combination of things.

“Certainly, we know that going into these last two matches, we cannot afford to pick up any more red cards.”

Ahead of a seismic seven days in the modern-day history of Leeds, Marsch has revealed that the club’s hierarchy have spoken to players and coaching staff to deliver a message of support.

It has preached the importance of unity and solidarity as Leeds seek to revive their survival prospects which are on the ropes following three successive defeats and a run of one point from the last 12 available – and no goals.

Marsch added: “We had the ownership speak to the team (on Thursday) and we are all totally unified.

“That part is what I love about being here. It was one of the reasons why I came here in the beginning, I believed in the people and the people believed in me.

“But in difficult moments, I have been really impressed by Victor (Orta), Angus (Kinnear), Andrea (Radrizzani) and Paraag (Marathe) and everybody’s ability to stay together, unified and supportive and that part has been awesome and it allows me to focus on what I need to do to get the job done with our team.

“They have just tried to say that we have everything still in our grasp and our ability to recover, go again and believe. There was a lot of talk about belief.

“A lot of the things they said fitted into things I have said already to the team without me communicating what I have said every day. There is real alignment and that’s incredibly helpful.”

Meanwhile, Marsch is remaining tight-lipped regarding the prospect of Patrick Bamford being involved tomorrow.

The striker, who has not featured since rupturing his plantar fascia in the 3-2 victory over Wolves in March, has been in training this week and will be assessed prior to the game.

He said: “I don’t want to say too much about Patrick right now. Let’s just see.

“I want to give him the opportunity to continue to progress and then just make a decision on his involvement for each match.”