LEEDS UNITED head coach Marcelo Bielsa hopes Pontus Jansson receives a warm welcome tonight on his first return since leaving Elland Road during the summer.
The Swedish international is set to captain Brentford against the club where he spent three years before being sold.
His departure for around £5.5m caught many by surprise, not least because Bielsa had previously said Jansson had been United’s best player during the 2018-19 campaign.
Nevertheless, the Leeds chief felt the move was in the best interests of all parties.
“He deserves to be received with the right reception” said Bielsa ahead of tonight’s reunion. “He was the best player last season.
“I cannot talk about his previous years because I wasn’t here. He did a high level last season. I appreciate what Jansson gave to the team.
“I think the fans are going to be fair and recognise what Jansson did here.”
Jansson will line-up against a Leeds side in buoyant mood after starting the Championship season with two wins and a draw.
Bielsa, though, does have injury concerns with Liam Cooper, Ezgjan Alioski and Barry Douglas all doubts for the visit of the Bees.
If the trio fail to recover in time, United will have to switch Stuart Dallas to left-back and bring Jamie Shackleton in on the opposite flank. Gaetano Berardi may also step up to partner Ben White in the centre of defence, though Kalvin Phillips is also an option.
Either way, Leeds will be looking to maintain their impressive start against a Brentford outfit who have taken four points from their opening three matches.
“Brentford is a different team (this season),” added Bielsa, whose side were beaten by the Bees at Griffin Park on Easter Monday. “I have a different future you cannot link with previous teams. They sold some very good players, but bought very good players too. Then they need time to watch how they work as a new team.”
Asked if missing out on promotion last season was fuelling his side’s start this time around, Bielsa replied: “If you are thinking about last season, you can feel this pain.
“We are positive to change this situation. The illusion, the motivation to go from this disappointment.”
Thomas Frank, the Bees manager, is eyeing a dream return for Jansson. “The beautiful fairytale is we are winning 1-0 from a set piece and Pontus scores,” he said.
Bielsa, however, is adamant his side can negate what threat the Swede poses.
“We know Pontus’s strengths,” said the Argentinian, who is definitely without Luke Ayling and Tyler Roberts. “The idea is to avoid what he does well, but this is normal in football.
“This is the game. You have to try to avoid the strengths of the other teams in games because this is key.
“You are not going to make a difference even if you know the player.”
Last six games: Leeds United WLWDWW, Brentford WWLWDD.
Referee: A Davies (Hampshire).
Last time: Leeds United 1 Brentford 1; October 6, 2018; Championship.