With two Yorkshire sides –Rotherham United and Sheffield Wednesday – relegated on the final day of the Championship season, Leeds’ first top-flight adventure since 2004 has been a breeze by comparison.
There have been few questions about the Whites’ Premier League credentials, with Marcelo Bielsa’s side spending much of the season in the middle third of the table with entertainment aplenty.
Bielsa does not plan to let his players finish with a whimper as they prepare to conclude with fixtures at Burnley and Southampton before welcoming West Bromwich Albion to Elland Road on the final day.
Given recent results, it is clear the Whites have not looked in the mood to let their season peter out. Since Easter, they have recorded hugely-impressive victories over Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur. They have also remained unbeaten in three games against Chelsea, Manchester United and Liverpool.
In Leeds’ impressive win over Tottenham on Saturday, it was the visitors still fighting for something with a top-four finish a possibility.
United looked like the side gunning for a Champions League place as they created more clear chances, enjoyed more possession and simply out-enthused the League Cup finalists.
“I don’t think Tottenham played without enthusiasm,” reflected Biesla.
“We think that when they’re playing for positions their enthusiasm increases but I have the idea that even if we don’t have to define anything, I feel like every performance generates indifference or demand.
“In this moment, if we played badly we would receive an indifferent response but if we play well the recognition increases. The dimension of a player always depends on how much they want to receive recognition.”
Patrick Bamford scored late in the first half for Leeds to put them back in front after Son Heung-Min had cancelled out Stuart Dallas’s opener.
Rodrigo appeared from the bench to seal the win as he was teed up by another substitute, Raphinha, in the 84th minute.
“The manager told us before we left the hotel that we have done really well this season but that there is no point in us going out on a whimper,” Bamford told broadcasters after Saturday’s win.
“Everyone has a short memory in football. We want to finish strongly and end the season on a high.”
The Whites’ top goal-scorer picked the right time to get back on the scoresheet, with England manager Gareth Southgate watching on from the Elland Road directors’ box.
An extra three places will be available in the England side for this summer’s European Championships, increasing from a 23 to a 26-man squad.
“I never even know when he is here, to be fair,” insisted Bamford.
“I have said it before, there are so many good players in the England squad. Whoever gets picked deserves it.
“It is a tall order to get in as one of the strikers.”
With Rodrigo and Bamford both getting their names on the scoresheet, Bielsa fielded questions about the club’s potential search for a striker in the summer.
He said: “That’s a complex decision. I think they’re both excellent players to play number 10 or number 9.”
Leeds’ attacking options were bolstered again with the successful return of Raphinha to the side. He had not featured since the victory at Manchester City as his assist took his goal contributions for the season to 13.
Bielsa took plenty of pride in United’s defensive display as they gave little away to a Tottenham attack which comprised Harry Kane, Son and Gareth Bale. Robin Koch was utilised in a holding midfield role with Diego Llorente and Pascal Struijk starting alongside each other in central defence.
He added: “Today was a very difficult game for Llorente, Struijk and Koch. Pascal had a performance without errors, Llorente the same, very solid to defend and secure in the management of the ball.
“Robin was one of the bright lights of the game.
“He defended well and he didn’t lose the ball. The three of them alongside the two full-backs, they had the task of neutralising the sector where Tottenham had their best players.”
Leeds United: Meslier; Alioski, Struijk, Llorente, Ayling; Koch; Dallas, Klich (Phillips 90) Roberts (Raphinha 58); Harrison, Bamford (Rodrigo 79). Unused substitutes: Casilla, Davis, Berardi, Shackleton, Hernandez, Poveda.
Tottenham Hotspur: Lloris; Aurier, Alderweireld, Dier, Reguilón; Højbjerg, Alli (Lamela 67), Lo Celso (Ndombele 80); Bale (Moura 67), Son, Kane. Unused substitutes: Doherty, Sanchez, Winks, Hart, Sissoko, Bergwijn.
Referee: M Oliver (Ashington).
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