LEEDS UNITED head coach Marcelo Bielsa has urged his players to feed off what is sure to be a partisan Elland Road atmosphere tonight to keep their promotion dream alive.
The Elland Road club host Derby County in the Championship semi-final second leg with the benefit of a precious 1-0 advantage.
Considering United have won 21 of the 22 league games in which they scored first under Bielsa – including all three meetings with the Rams – the Argentinian wants to see his side start on the front foot.
“The emotion is an ingredient that allows you to use better your skills,” said Bielsa when asked about the need to harness the passion of the home crowd tonight.
“This is something normal and natural, and we want to play the game in these conditions.
“The importance of Leeds’s fans in the behaviour of the team has been shown in many moments when our team faced adversity and overcame adversity thanks to the fans. The fans do that without needing to receive any message from us.
“What makes Leeds fans special is they don’t answer to things you ask them to do, they don’t need to be asked to do things. That is why I have nothing to ask them, they always give us what they need.
“We know that there is a long path to reach our goal together. We just played the part of the duel and we have the second part to play now.
“The difference is only one goal, and the idea is to increase this difference and prevent the opponent from reducing it. We know that this is a difficult task and as difficult as it was to the first time.”
United will be without Kemar Roofe, the scorer of the only goal on Saturday at Pride Park, due to a calf injury.
His place up front will go to Patrick Bamford, back from a two-game ban imposed for successfully deceiving the match officials in last month’s stormy 1-1 draw with Aston Villa.
Bamford has not had the easiest of seasons at Elland Road following his £7m move from Middlesbrough last summer.
But his nine goals from 15 league starts and seven appearances from the bench still represents a healthy return.
He is likely to be a key figure tonight due to Bielsa wanting his side to press high up the pitch against a Derby side who looked distinctly uncomfortable when put under pressure in the first leg.
“You could divide coaches into two categories – those who speculate (adapt) and those who impose their style,” said Bielsa when asked about his attack-minded approach this term.
“The percentage of success that both trends have are very similar and it would not be fair to say one is better than the other.
“Every head coach does what he feels is best because the role of the coach is to convince people. It is very difficult to convince people about ideas you do not believe in.
“I would have less credibility with my players if I did not express things I believe in. But I never give a negative opinion about ideas that are different from mine and it does not mean other ideas need my approval.
“Results show it every weekend in games we see around the world.”
As for his side’s prospects in the two-legged tie, the Leeds head coach added: “Usually you do not make comments at half-time. Usually you work in order to build your superiority in the time we have still to play. The first game (at Pride Park) was not simple for us. We are sure that the next game won’t be easy either.”
No team in the history of the Championship play-offs has bounced back from losing on home soil in the first leg to reach the final.
Derby, however, will take heart from a season that saw Frank Lampard’s side come from behind six times to win matches en route to finishing sixth.
“This year we have been a team – more so than pretty much any team – who have come back from behind and turned a negative result around into a positive one,” said the Rams’ manager, who hopes striker Martyn Waghorn will be fit enough to start after recovering sufficiently from Achilles trouble to train this week.
“We have had some big performances this season where we have turned around results in games and took a losing game and made it a winning game.
“We do not have to go crazy in a game where we are 1-0 down at half-time. I want the players to apply themselves exactly as they have been doing because I have no complaints on that front.
“It is just about the fine details and being a bit more composed on the ball.”