Leeds United v Bolton Wanderers: Bielsa pays lavish praise little heed

Leeds United head coach Marcelo Bielsa pictured during his side's win at Pride Park.
Leeds United head coach Marcelo Bielsa pictured during his side's win at Pride Park.
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LEEDS UNITED head coach Marcelo Bielsa insists no one at Elland Road is getting carried away by his side having been installed as the new favourites to win the Championship just two games into the season.

The manner of victories over Stoke City and Derby County has generated huge excitement among supporters in the city.

Bookmakers, too, seem to have been won over by the stylish football played by Leeds, who had started the campaign as joint fifth favourites behind Stoke, Middlesbrough, West Bromwich Albion and Nottingham Forest.

Now Leeds are priced as short as 10-3 to land the title, but Bielsa is refusing to get caught up in the hype surrounding his team.

“Do you remember what the ranking of Leeds was after 23 games (last season)?” said the Argentinian when asked about those fresh odds. “I think it was fourth and it was not the last ranking.

“This indicates that the analysis is not a linear one otherwise we would divide the competition in two, four, six or eight and we would do a numerical projection.

“We can’t apply this to football. In football the best one does not always win and the worst one sometimes has possibilities to win.

“Two games are not enough to make conclusions on a team and we all know that.

“You ask me a question, but you don’t believe in it, not after just playing five per cent of the Championship, less than five per cent.”

Pressed on the praise that his side has received for their style of play, Bielsa added: “I don’t pay a lot of attention to this.

“If you take into account the positive comments at the beginning these positive comments don’t make us better persons. Also they do not make us a better team.”

League points will not be on Bielsa’s mind tonight as Bolton Wanderers head to Elland Road for a first-round tie in the Carabao Cup.

The United head coach is expected to make a host of changes after selecting the same starting XI for both the Stoke and Derby league outings.

Adam Forshaw and Stuart Dallas are out through injury, but Bielsa does have options with Patrick Bamford pushing for a first start in a Leeds shirt along with Tyler Roberts, Jamal Blackman and Jack Harrison.

Teenage Academy product Jamie Shackleton, fresh from signing a new three-year deal, may also be involved against Phil Parkinson’s side.

Parkinson will be looking to knock Leeds out of the League Cup for the second time in four years after his Bradford City side triumphed 2-1 at Valley Parade.

For Bielsa, however, the cup is an opportunity to build on the work of those opening two games with different personnel.

“Every official game is very important to us and we take it very seriously,” he added.

It will be fascinating to see if those drafted in to face Bolton can maintain the style and panache that brought those wins over Stoke and Derby.

Certainly if Mateusz Klich is one of those rested then whoever comes in will have big boots to fill after a quite stunning turnaround in fortunes for the Pole.

Signed from FC Twente in the summer of 2017, he made just one league start and was shipped out on loan to FC Utrecht in January.

Many presumed Klich had played his last game for Leeds, but he has been reborn as a footballer under Bielsa. Two goals from two resounding wins in which the midfielder was hugely impressive and Klich is relishing life at Elland Road.

“I am very happy because I came here last season to play football and I didn’t play much,” he said. “I didn’t succeed in the first year so I had unfinished business.

“I wanted to show myself because I knew I was better than what I showed last season. That was the first thing. But secondly Leeds United is obviously a huge club and you cannot so easily give up on the club. Everyone wants to play here. It just feels good.

“My manager wants me to play in offensive midfield and attack with the team, but also to come back to defend. It is a lot of work of to do but I like it.

“Everything is fine, but I don’t want to get too carried away and say too much because it is only two games. It is a very long way until the end of the season.”

Regardless of whether Klich sits out tonight’s tie or not the winning mentality that the Leeds head coach has instilled means the midfielder is desperate for the club’s positive start to continue.

“We want to win every game,” Klich said. “It is a cup game. We have to keep winning to build confidence and our identity, and to keep consistency.

“There is no relaxing here with Marcelo Bielsa, there is no chill out. We have to keep pushing and keep fighting.”

Last six games: Leeds United LWLWWW Bolton Wanderers DLLWWD.

Referee: A Haines (Tyne & Wear).

Last time: Leeds United 2 Bolton Wanderers 1; March 30, 2018; Championship.