Marcelo Bielsa wants Leeds United to play for every point

Leeds United are safe from Premier League relegation after Friday night’s 2-1 win at Fulham, but there is no need for them to think so. If they can see it out strongly, 2020-21 will have been a campaign to be proud of.

Leeds United's Patrick Bamford.

The win secured by goals from Patrick Bamford and Raphinha – either side of Joachim Andersen’s disappointing strike from another corner – took the Elland Road club to 39 points for the season. It is one short of the mythical Premier League safety mark, but it is just that. It is 10 years since a team was relegated with 39 points – five, even, since one went down with the 36 Leeds started the day with – and they have the added cushion of six teams between themselves and Fulham, still in the bottom three and now 11 points behind the Whites.

But with the players not feeling the pressure of relegation in their first season back in the top flight since 2004, and much to be gained from keeping their foot down, they are best not to think about it, hence coach Marcelo Bielsa’s stubbornly accurate insistence that “With 27 points left to play, safety is not confirmed.”

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A top-half finish should be Leeds’s aim because, as reflected in the intensity of their performance at Craven Cottage, their season is far from over.

“Energy please! Thank you!” Bielsa politely requested at one point, but Leeds were far from going through the motions or, initially at least, held back mentally by five defeats in eight matches.

Bamford in particular emptied the tank on a night when the pain of a hip injury and a first-half kick were overridden by the adrenaline of wanting to show what he could do after being overlooked by England manager Gareth Southgate the previous day. A 14th goal of the season and an assist did that before his weary body triumphed over his mind.

Andersen’s goal brought what Bielsa called “a segment of confusion” late in the first half but otherwise it was a dominant display from a Fulham team who are being powered by a very real fear of relegation, mixed with a genuine belief that they can get out of it.

The nature of Saturday night’s limp defeat for Newcastle United will have ensured that was not dulled too much by Friday’s loss.

Conclusions on Leeds will also have to wait but the trailers are looking good.

“Throughout the campaign the players have adapted, absorbed (lessons) and gained the level necessary to play in this league,” said Bielsa.

“Like all the teams yet to be consolidated (in the league), there’s been highs and lows and with so many points still left to play for, there are many things that could be said either way.”

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