Southampton v Leeds United - Marcelo Bielsa’s praise for the backroom boys

MARCELO Bielsa has paid tribute to the unsung heroes in Leeds United’s outstanding return to the top flight.

Take a break: The season is over for Mateusz Klich, centre, seen celebrating scoring the first goal at Turf Moor. Picture: Darren Staples/ Sportimage

United visit Southampton tonight for their final away game of 2020-21 in a campaign where their players’ physical data has hit levels that no other Premier League side has reached.

It has prompted praise from Bielsa’s contemporaries, including Everton manager Carlo Ancelotti who ‘congratulated’ the Argentine for the physical condition of his team late last week.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Bielsa said: “Three years working with a stable group is an advantage – and to have been able to have been part of a long Championship also helps.

Rodrigo scores the fourth goal for Leeds against Burnley (Picture: Simon Hulme)

“I want to give recognition to Benoit Delaval, who is the fitness coach, and all the group who are being led by Rob Price, who is in charge of medical staff and recovery of the players.

“Those two structures that are very developed in the club, these things are linked to the physical activity of the players, the loads and the health, (and) they have done a very valuable job. They are professionals who are very up-to-date and very capable.”

Boasting just one defeat in nine matches, Leeds face a Saints side who have won their last two home games and, as with recent opponents Brighton, Bielsa believes they are in a false position.

The United head coach, whose side easily beat Ralph Hasenhuttl’s team 3-0 in the reverse fixture at Elland Road in February, added: “They are a team who are in a different position in the table with regards to the performances that they have. They have a group of players who are very capable.

Marcelo Bielsa watches his side dismantle Burnley on Saturday (Picture: Simon Hulme)

“And they didn’t finish higher up in the table because they had a series of nine or 10 games which was negative, but the level of the team is superior to the position they find themselves in the table.”

Bielsa has confirmed that international duo Robin Koch and Mateusz Klich will not feature in the club’s last two games of the season – having been given early leave ahead of potential involvement in the forthcoming European Championships in June.

German international defender Koch missed the win at Burnley due to a niggle in his hip.

Midfielder Klich, impressive in the fine recent victories over the Clarets and Spurs, will not be involved in the matches against Southampton and West Brom as he recharges his batteries ahead of tournament involvement.

Pablo Hernandez will be assessed in training ahead of a decision being made as to whether he will be involved at St Mary’s.

Bielsa said: “Koch has been given early leave with the potential for him to be called up or not for the German national team.

“The injury he has is not important and we did not want to take the risk of him playing and making it worse.

“I don’t know whether he is going to be called up into German national team or not. What I did want to say is that we anticipated one week of his holidays not linked to whether he is going to be called up or not. He has a small niggle.

“We did not want to run the risk of a small niggle being aggravated into something bigger.

“We anticipate his holidays in the same way as we did for Klich. In this case, he was not injured, but we could anticipate his holidays for one week and that’s why we took that decision.”

On the situation with Klich, Bielsa continued: “No, he is not injured. The evaluations that I make over the campaign are for the needs of each player. In the case of Klich, the decision I made is the most favourable for him.”

Last six games: Southampton LLDLWW; Leeds WDDLWW.

Referee: P Bankes (Merseyside).

Last time: Southampton 3 Leeds 1, August 6, 2011; Championship.

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.