Leeds United are sitting pretty at the top of the SkyBet Championship at the moment, driven there by the football inculcated at the club by new manager Marcelo Bielsa.
It is a brand of football that the fans have been crying out to have for a long time, it is a brand of football that is both pretty on the eye and pretty effective. It has swept aside the likes of Derby County (4-1) and relegated Premier League side Stoke City (3-1) at the start of the season.
Bielsa’s insistence on a lean, pared-down squad, a squad where players are expected to be able to cover more than their own position has meant that recent injuries have cut into the Whites.
However, whilst the results have slipped somewhat, United have taken advantage of rivals’ slip-ups and have maintained that top-of-table fingerhold. However, it is a tenuous hold in what is becoming a very competitive league. Only six points separate Leeds, in first, and QPR, in 13th, ahead of the latter’s game against Aston Villa tonight.
Tomorrow sees the Whites host Nottingham Forest at Elland Road, their ardent fans hoping that the midweek beating of a poor Ipswich side will provide the impetus for another three points against the trickier Reds.
Below is a look at three things that Leeds United fans can expect from today’s match-up.
Three things to expect from Leeds United today
1. BielsaBall played the Bielsa way: Leeds United will continue to play the high-pressure, high-press game that Marcello Bielsa has become renowned for. It’s a style of football that forces sides back at times, the intense pressure and pressing often leading to them simply wanting to clear their lines.
That’s what Leeds United fans will get to see tomorrow when the Whites look to stamp their authority on the visitors, looking to maintain their lead at the head of the table.
2. Hernandez magic to be sprinkled liberally: Spanish wizard Pablo Hernandez had a 20-minute run- ut in the 2-1 defeat against Blackburn Rovers. On the back of that he started the following game against Ipswich Town, tearing the hapless Tractor Boys apart. That’s testament to the Spaniard’s skill, poise, elan on the ball – he’s a spark for the Whites and was from when he first signed on loan.
He’s made just seven appearances for Leeds this campaign, scoring three times and adding four assists – two of those against Ipswich. Magisterial is a word that sums him up perfectly, the way he strokes the ball around (3.8 key passes per 90 minutes) sees him tease and tire opponents. He’s a dangerman whenever he’s on the ball – which will be a lot tomorrow.
3. Much-maligned Gjanni Alioski to play out wide: It seems, at times, that Leeds United fans need to have at least one player that they can use as something akin to a BoBo doll to bounce their disappointments off of. Tom Lees, Jason Pearce, Giuseppe Bellusci, as well as many others, have all fulfilled that particular role for the terrace barrackers at Eland Road. Now it is the turn of Macedonian international Alioski.
Alioski has scored three and assisted three during this campaign, often working his socks off tirelessly tracking up and down the left flank. However, for some, that’s not enough and the amiable Macedonian has been criticised for his decision-making, perceived inability to ghost past his man, his propensity to be caught offside and his said greediness. Yet, fan opinion will count for nothing tomorrow, with Marcelo Bielsa already stating that he is likely to start the much-critiqued Macedonian on the wing.