Leeds are going through a tough time at the moment, and the once almost impregnable lead that they and West Brom had at the top of the table has been whittled away by the chasing pack.
Two months ago on 10 December, they beat Hull 2-0 at Elland Road to swap places with the Baggies and lead the table once again. Leeds were 11 points clear of third-placed Fulham, and 16 points ahead of the Bees, who were ninth.
The victory over the Tigers was the Whites’ seventh straight Championship win, but since then they have only picked up two victories and three draws in 10 matches.
Those two wins were both nailbiters as they triumphed 5-4 at Birmingham and overcame Millwall 3-2 at Elland Road, having been 2-0 down early on.
They started the season well with four wins and a draw in their first five matches, but then won three, drew three and lost three of their next nine games, before starting their winning run.
This is Leeds’s 10th consecutive season in the Championship and 13th out of the last 16, with the other three spent in League One.
Since relegation from the Premier League in 2004, they have only made this division’s play-offs four times – with last season the first time since being promoted back here in 2010.
However, it was Derby who put an end to their hopes of returning to the Premier League with a 4-3 aggregate win in the play-off semi-finals.
WHO’S IN CHARGE
Marcelo Bielsa took over at Elland Road in the middle of June 2018 following the sacking of Paul Heckingbottom, making it the fifth successive season that Leeds had started the campaign with a new manager.
Bielsa has a wealth of experience, having previously managed the Argentina and Chile national teams – winning gold at the 2004 Olympics with the former and taking the latter to their first World Cup finals in 12 years.
He has also been in charge of clubs in Argentina and Mexico, as well as Athletic Bilbao, who he took to the 2012 Europa League final, Marseille, Lazio and Lille in Europe.
WE’VE MET BEFORE
Leeds are another one of those teams who we have played in every season that we have been in the Championship.
We’ve had the better of the 11 encounters with five wins, three draws and three defeats – all of which came at Elland Road.
We did the double in 2014/15 – winning 2-0 at home and 1-0 away – while both the following season’s matches ended 1-1.
There were two home wins in 2016/17 – with Leeds triumphing 1-0 at Elland Road and the Bees earning a 2-0 victory in TW8 – and the same pattern the following season, with the Bees winning 3-1 at Griffin Park and Leeds taking the return 1-0.
We played at Elland Road in early October and were within minutes of earning a 1-0 win, before a late Pontus Jansson header ensured that the game finished 1-1.
Neal Maupay had put us ahead from the penalty spot in the 62nd minute with his 10th Championship goal of the season, making him the quickest player to reach the landmark in all four divisions last season. However, we couldn’t quite hold on and Jansson levelled before the hosts’ Luke Ayling was sent off in injury-time after picking up a second yellow card.
The Easter Monday return was crucial to Leeds in their hopes of trying to win automatic promotion, but – after they lost at home to Wigan on Good Friday – their holiday period became even worse as the Bees earned a 2-0 win in another televised game.
Brentford took the lead on the stroke of half-time when Sergi Canos set Maupay free, and the striker slotted home his 27th goal of the season.
Maupay returned the compliment just past the hour mark when he fed Canos, who doubled the lead and wrapped up a victory which left the Bees 15th in the table.
Leeds earned their third 1-0 home win over us in four seasons on a Wednesday evening in August.
Arsenal loanee Eddie Nketiah scored the only goal on his Championship debut in the 61st minute – four minutes after coming off the bench. The victory took the Whites to the top of the table, while our second defeat in four games from the start of the season dropped us down to 18th.
BBC Radio Leeds’s Leeds United commentator Adam Pope tells us why Leeds’ form has faltered, what it means if the club do not end up winning promotion, and reviews their business in last month’s transfer window.
Q – Leeds started the season superbly, but their record since mid-December has been poor, so what has gone wrong?
A – The 3-3 draw with Cardiff after a seven-match winning run saw Leeds play a scintillating hour of football – in my opinion the best under Bielsa yet. If they had scored six it would not have been unwarranted. However, they contrived to draw the game, and since then the defence and particularly the keeper have shown frailty having been the strongest anywhere in Europe prior to that.
Q – What will it take for Leeds to go on another long winning run, as in November and early December, and do you think they will go up automatically?
A – My belief is they and West Brom are the two best sides in the division. That means they are capable of another long winning run and a top two finish. A lot of questions are being asked about the mental fortitude of the squad and if they can handle this situation where the season is taking a massive downturn with two wins in 10 league games. Bielsa is taking full responsibility and his approach will not alter. Not surprisingly it has been suggested by many that the club should use a sports psychologist to help the players. Confidence appears to have drained.
Q – If Leeds failed to go up this season, what would it mean for the club?
A – The owner Andrea Radrizzani is, according to the club, putting in more than a million pounds a month of his own money to keep United going. Leeds, like most clubs, make losses despite having revenues of £45m plus per annum. The management team have doubled the wage bill as part of the calculation to achieve promotion. However, we are told they are close to the P & S/FFP limit which they are determined to remain within to avoid sanctions if they miss out on promotion.
Radrizzani has said he will not keep funding the club indefinitely so, along with the previous investment from the San Francisco 49ers, he is looking for more. I would envisage him selling the club at some point, but the potential is huge with Leeds threatening to reach the top flight, so he is in a relatively strong position to decide the future of United – and bear in mind he also owns Elland Road. He has come under fire this weekend for comments on social media asking for fans to back the team, which supporters have felt insulted by as they have always been there in numbers and will continue to be, long after the current owner moves on.
Q – How would you assess Leeds’ business in the January transfer window?
A – I felt they needed a Championship-experienced striker, but I appreciate to buy a Che Adams etc would have cost £20m plus even if the host club were willing to sell. So, to remain within FFP should they miss out on going up, Leeds say they have to go down the loan with an option to buy route with Jean-Kevin Augustin. He is not up to speed yet, which is a frustration to many with Bamford missing chances.
Ian Poveda is a winger bought from Man City who has been with the Bees, Barcelona, Arsenal & Chelsea, so there is talent there, but will Bielsa be the coach that taps into him and makes it work at Elland Road? The third signing was a young Italian keeper Elia Caprile, but for me I would have liked another centre-half as cover. The club’s director of football Victor Orta is pleased with the business and says it’s made the squad stronger with Eddie Nketiah and Jack Clarke returning to Arsenal and Spurs. The proof will be if Augustin & Poveda can impact a turnaround in form which has dropped severely.
Q – Which players should we watch out for?
A – Kalvin Phillips returns from a three-match suspension and the defensive midfielder has been missed. Bielsa has turned him into a Premier League player. The Yorkshire Pirlo is a superb ball winner, passer and destroyer.
Brighton loanee Ben White oozes quality at centre-back but has struggled replacing Phillips in midfield recently. He has been superb in the centre of defence and I reckon he will play for England.
Q – Finally, can you give me a possible Leeds starting line-up and formation?
A – 4-1-2-2-1
GK Casilla (but possibly Meslier who made his one appearance v Arsenal in FA Cup. Impressive)
RB Luke Ayling
CB Ben White
CB Liam Cooper
LB Dallas or Alioski
No 10 Hernandez
Wingers Harrison & Costa
You can hear more views on Leeds from Joe from the All Leeds TV YouTube channel, who is on the Beesotted Love Sport Radio show at 8pm on Monday or on demand afterwards. You can listen here.
And Andrew ‘LUFC Stats’ Dalton gives his views on Leeds’ season to Billy Grant in a Beesotted interivew. You can read that here.
BEESOTTED SCORE PREDICTIONS
Some of the Beesotted crew have given me their score predictions for Tuesday’s game.
1-1. Tight, tough, battle. Greville Waterman
1-0 Bees. I honestly find this match almost impossible to call. I’ll go with simple gut instinct. Robin Hood
0-0. A tight game of few chances as both sides look to avoid defeat. Damien Flenley
2-1 Bees. With both teams desperate to get a result, pressure tells in a game of defensive mistakes, Bees run out winners but it’s a close one. Very close. Matt Allard
I’m going for 4-0 Bees to celebrate my birthday on Thursday. Gem
PUBS IN BRENTFORD AND TRAVEL NEWS
For Leeds fans coming to Griffin Park for the final time, you are probably aware there plenty of pub options pre-match and all are most welcoming and away-fan-friendly (as it should be). As you are probably well aware, Brentford is well known for its four pubs – one on each corner of the ground. The Griffin is closest to the away end (like 30 secs walk) and is very popular with away fans – but also very, very busy. The New Inn is on the other side and is also popular with away fans. The Princess Royal and the newly-opened and renamed The Brook pub – which has jumped on the craft beer bandwagon – are the other options.
Other pubs slightly further afield for the more creative amongst you include (and this is by no means a definitive list) …. The Globe (Windmill Rd) & The Lord Nelson (Enfield Rd) are both incredibly friendly and cosy away-friendly pubs and about 1 min walk from each other …. frequented by ‘away fans in the know’. The Plough (Northfields Ave) in Northfields is a decent stop-off if you are coming by tube to Northfields.
The ‘Northfields run’ makes a much better pub crawl route than South Ealing – getting off at Northfields station, turning left and stopping off at The Plough (2 min walk), The Lord Nelson (10 min walk from The Plough) & The Globe (1 min walk from The Nelson) en-route before ending up at The Griffin (8 min walk from The Globe) by the away turnstiles. There’s also a relatively new tiny microbrewery pub in Northfields called The Owl and The Pussycat (Northfields Ave) – right turn out of the station away from the ground as opposed to left.
If you decide to get off at South Ealing station, we’ve heard a few people pop into Roddy’s Bar. If you like your craft beer, another fairly new pub worth checking out is The Black Dog Beer House, formerly The Albany, on Albany Road, which is fairly busy before and after the match. There is a pub right by Brentford mainline station referred to as … the Pub by Brentford station.
For real ale head to the Magpie and Crown pub on Brentford High Street. The Royal Horseguardsman (Ealing Road) can probably hold 15 of you at a push. The Brewery Tap (Catherine Wheel Road) is a cosy boozer by the river. And if you are super-adventurous, get off at Kew Bridge and visit One Over the Ait (Kew Bridge Road) – a spacious boozer right next to Kew Bridge, and across from the site of the Bees’ new stadium at Lionel Road. This pub is situated on the location of the now-demolished Oxford & Cambridge pub where Brentford Football Club was founded in 1889. There is also The Express Tavern (Kew Bridge Road) – an ale pub with a retro feel. If you sit in the garden, you can see Brentford’s new stadium towering over you.
There are a load more pubs in the river in Kew if that takes your fancy – just take a walk down Strand On The Green. A quick Google search and you’ll find them all. There are many, many more too if you have a look around. Parking near the stadium is a no no but is pretty easy in the streets north of Griffin Park on the other side of the A4 Great West Rd via Ealing Road or Windmill Road. Make sure you look out for the parking signs which change from area to area.
Getting to Brentford from town – many fans get the tube to Waterloo (Northern, Jubilee lines) or Vauxhall (Victoria Line) then take the Overground train to Brentford.
The reality is the tube is easier and quicker (and cheaper). It’s 35 minutes to South Ealing or Northfields stations from King’s Cross or Euston (even less from Paddington) on the Piccadilly Line and then 15 minutes walk to Griffin Park from there (4 mins on the bus) – more if you take the Northfields to Brentford
If you’re feeling lazy you could take the E2 bus from outside Northfields station (turn LEFT outside the station) to either outside The Globe pub (3 stops – serves The Lord Nelson too) or Brentford FC (4 stops – 5 minutes).
If you get off at South Ealing, you can get the 65 from the bus stop across the road – right outside the station.
You can check out Transport for London’s guide to travel on the Tube and Overground.