Leeds United v Liverpool - Transformation of Stuart Dallas all part of Marcelo Bielsa’s magic

THE success of a coach should not be purely quantified in terms of how many trophies they collect in their time at a club.

The biggest tribute is perhaps the way in which they make players better and in that regard, Leeds United head coach Marcelo Bielsa truly excels.

At Elland Road tonight, the Argentine pits his wits against another world-renowned coaching great in Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Bielsa’s Leeds side will move just four points behind the outgoing champions if they prevail.

Stuart Dallas: The epitome of a player Marcelo Bielsa has transformed in his time at Leeds. (Picture: Bruce Rollinson)

Should that happen, it will be another high-water mark in their season following on from last weekend’s magnificent exploits at Manchester City.

Leeds’s beguiling football has thrilled their fans since the arrival of the 65-year-old in June, 2018.

It has also thrilled Premier League aficionados since they stepped out at Anfield in an absorbing contest on the opening weekend of this season and Leeds have not looked back since.

The way in which players who had previously spent the vast majority of their careers in the Championship and have stepped up seamlessly to the top flight has been a particular delight.

Leeds United's Stuart Dallas (right) celebrates scoring their side's first goal against Manchester City (Picture: PA)

Chief among that number is midfielder Stuart Dallas an unsung hero rightfully afforded his place in the sun with his winning double at the Etihad Stadium.

He is a player who has earned the full respect of Bielsa. He is a player who he trusts.

On the similarities between Dallas and players he has previously managed, Bielsa said: “Yes I had a player like this, Javier Zanetti for example and Julio Saldana, when I first managed Newell’s (Old Boys) in my first experience, those two players are very alike in terms of their versatility (with Dallas).

“He is a very potent, powerful player. He can play with either foot on the right or left, he is good at defending.

Leeds United manager Marcelo Bielsa (Picture: PA)

“He has the capacity to combine as well as make runs in the middle and he has a change of rhythm and surprise when he attacks. It is very difficult to find all that in one player.”

Leeds are chasing a fourth successive league win this evening and after taking the scalp of Manchester City in their last game, the tantalising prospect of adding the decorated names of Liverpool and Manchester United to that collection in the next week will not be lost upon their supporters.

It would not only provide kudos but increase Leeds’s potential for a top-ten finish. It is something Bielsa is aware of, but he is not one for wanton predictions.

He commented: “Everything that is mathematically possible is within our aspirations. After the way in which we play the remaining seven games, the points we obtain will give the campaign more shine or less shine.

“To have an opinion on something that has not happened in the remaining seven games would not be fair.”

One prediction that can safely be made is that Leeds will serve up more choice entertainment between now and May 23. It is in their nature under Bielsa.

His side contributed to a classic at Anfield on September 12. Leeds may have been edged out at the end when Mohammed Salah scored his second of two penalties en route to a hat-trick in a roller-coaster 4-3 win for the Reds – but they were still able to secure a moral victory in their first Premier League outing in over 16 years.

Over the course of 2020-21, it is Liverpool who have had the troubles this season and not Leeds. But despite the Merseysiders’ disappointing defence of the top-flight title, Bielsa enjoys watching them immensely – another side who are true to themselves.

“I like to see Liverpool play. They always play in the same manner and for me, that is a big praise to give to a team,” he said. “There is no player in their team who is not prepared to receive and manage the ball in any part of the pitch they receive it.

“They have a big offensive power and their full backs are wingers and their wingers are centre forwards in moments of the game. They are a team who constantly produce football, they don’t speculate, but always attack.”

Last six games: Leeds LLDWWW; Liverpool WWWLWD.

Referee: A Taylor (Cheshire).

Last time: Leeds 0 Liverpool 1, September 22, 2009; Carling Cup.

Support The Yorkshire Post and become a subscriber today. Your subscription will help us to continue to bring quality news to the people of Yorkshire. In return, you’ll see fewer ads on site, get free access to our app and receive exclusive members-only offers. Click HERE to subscribe.