HEAD COACH Marcelo Bielsa has railed against those who suggested ahead of the play-offs that Leeds United were suffering from burn-out due to the intense physical demands placed on his side this season.
The Elland Road club will be looking to book a first trip to Wembley in 11 years when hosting Derby County tomorrow night in an eagerly-anticipated semi-final second leg.
United lead 1-0 thanks to Kemar Roofe’s 15th goal of the season and if they can make the final then it will represent a major boost following the late-season collapse that ended any hopes of clinching automatic promotion.
The final four games yielded just a point, adding fuel to the suggestions that Leeds were suffering from fatigue after a long season playing the high-tempo football advocated by Bielsa.
“You have heard that my teams usually arrive at this segment of the season tired both physically and mentally,” said the Argentinian yesterday, “but the game against Derby is the game we ran most in the whole season.”
Considering how dominant United were in Saturday’s first leg, hopes are high that the Yorkshire side can finish the job tomorrow night and book a May 27 meeting with either Aston Villa or West Bromwich Albion.
Bielsa, however, admits to being wary of the talk that Leeds should make it through due to having already got the better of the Rams three times this season, scoring seven goals in the process.
“Every game was different,” he said, “and we won [Saturday’s game] with just one goal difference, the other with two goals difference and in the first game we were the same team we are now, but Derby were a lot inferior to what they are now.
“So we should be careful about the analysis. It is not 7-1. We should analyse the 1-0 game more.”
Saturday’s first leg saw United fans mock Frank Lampard with a re-working of the Oasis song Stop Crying Your Heart Out.
He is expected to be on the receiving end again tomorrow night, but the Derby chief insists his only concern is how the Rams perform.
“No, of course not, it is good fun,” said Lampard. “As a Chelsea player there was a rivalry always with Leeds. We didn’t play them that much because we were in the Premier League, but that comes with it. I will take a song all day long. My worry is what the players do on the pitch.”