Arguably the biggest derby clash between the Uniteds of Leeds and Sheffield since the day in 1992 the League title came to Elland Road for a third time looms large on the horizon.
But Whites’ head coach Marcelo Bielsa is adamant his side will not be distracted when tackling Reading tonight
Leeds can return to the summit of the Championship with victory at the Madejski Stadium, leaders Norwich City not being in action until tomorrow at home to Hull City.
This would set up United nicely for Saturday’s home clash with the Blades, a fixture that has taken on huge importance in what is now a three-way fight for automatic promotion.
Bielsa, however, is not allowing himself or his players to be distracted by the upcoming lunchtime derby.
“I don’t think so because the points of this game (at Reading) are very important for us,” said the Argentinian. “You never start playing a game before finishing the previous one.
“You all know, as observers, that when you look ahead to the next game you never have positive consequences.
“I am focused on winning the (Reading) game and I don’t take into account the possible consequences of a win. Our first goal is to win the game. Then we will occupy the position the results allow us to have.”
Chris Wilder, the Blades manager, concurred yesterday. He said: “No one mentioned Brentford before Rotherham (who United beat 2-0 last Saturday) and no one has mentioned Leeds before this one.
“They know, if they did, they would get their legs chopped off. That is the attitude of the players and the staff. If we don’t put the necessary work in, if we don’t show the right attention to detail, then we will not get the desired result.”
Leeds will head into the final ten games buoyed by recent history.
Only twice in the past decade has a team from outside the top two at this stage gone on to win automatic promotion – Watford in 2015 and Norwich four years earlier.
Both were third on goal difference with ten games remaining indicating just what a strong position Bielsa’s side find themselves in. Victory over sixth-bottom Reading would strengthen that grip on automatic promotion, but the Leeds chief admits his side will have to be on their game.
“The potential of their team is higher than the position they have in the table,” said Bielsa, whose side have taken 12 points from their last five outings.
“The offensive players are fast, the midfielders are good and they have a strong, physical defence. They use the ball well.
“Our results have arrived at the right moment for us, but the most important thing is not what happened in the past, but what is going to happen in the future.”
Bielsa will name the same starting XI for the fifth game running after Patrick Bamford recovered from colliding with a post in the weekend victory at Bristol City. Kalvin Phillips has also shaken off an ankle injury sustained at Ashton Gate and could face Lewis Baker, who spent the first half of the season on loan at Leeds from Chelsea.
“I wanted him to stay with our team,” added Bielsa about the midfielder’s decision to end his loan early, “but I understand that in some situations you have players who can’t wait. I understood his decision and his needs.”
Last six games: Reading DWLDWW, Leeds United DWWLWW.
Referee: G Ward (Surrey).
Last time: Reading 2 Leeds United 2; March 10, 2018; Championship.