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Leeds United preview and pub guide: United face final push for promotion

Leeds United preview and pub guide: United face final push for promotion

Leeds’s automatic promotion hopes are back in the balance after a dramatic Good Friday programme in the Championship.

They have been locked in a battle with Sheffield United for second place, behind Norwich, who seem favourites to win the title, with both Yorkshire rivals having spells above the other.

The Blades played first on Friday and beat Nottingham Forest 2-0 to go above Leeds on goal difference. But Marcelo Bielsa’s side then missed the chance to climb back into second, and open up another three-point lead over Sheffield United, after losing 2-1 at home to 10-man Wigan, despite taking an early lead.

Sheffield United play first on Easter Monday at Hull and if they win, Leeds will kick off at Griffin Park three points adrift of the Blades.

Leeds have been in the promotion shake-up all season, and have both the second best and second best away record in the division.

After a little wobble at the turn of the year, when they lost four out of six league matches, their good form has returned, with six wins in their last nine fixtures, despite Friday’s defeat.

One thing about Leeds’s season is that they have the fewest number of draws of any side in the Championship – seven – with their last one 13 matches ago at Middlesbrough.

This is Leeds’s ninth consecutive season in the Championship and 12th out of the last 15, 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 three times – but none of those have come since being promoted back here in 2010.

WHO’S IN CHARGE

Marcelo Bielsa took over at Elland Road in the middle of June following the sacking of Paul Heckingbottom, making it the fifth successive season that Leeds had started the campaign with a new manager.

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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 nine encounters with four wins, three draws and only two defeats – both 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.

Last season’s matches followed a similar pattern, although this time the first fixture was at Griffin Park.

In front of a Saturday early evening audience live on Sky, the Bees overcame a missed penalty to record a 3-1 win.

Neal Maupay headed us into the lead midway through the first half before Ollie Watkins fired a penalty over the bar. Ezgjan Alioski levelled in the middle of the second half, but Yoann Barbet restored our lead with a direct free-kick and Ryan Woods scored a rare goal, in injury-time, to seal the points.

Leeds got revenge in the February return match, thanks to a first-half header from Liam Cooper which wrapped up a 1-0 win for them.

We returned to 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 this 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.

OPPOSITION VIEW

BBC Radio Leeds’s Leeds United commentator Adam Pope analyses the job that Marcelo Bielsa has done at Elland Road, how “spygate” affected the club and how ex-Bees Adam Forshaw and Stuart Dallas have done this season.

Q – How would you assess Leeds’s season?

A – An absolute marvel. The football has been magnificent and whatever the outcome, none of us who have witnessed this campaign will ever forget it.

It was a huge gamble to bring in Marcelo Bielsa because it’s rare that a coach who has no experience of English football can have an instantaneously positive effect in the Championship. Slavisa Jokanovic at Watford, albeit he had played for Chelsea, and Nuno Espírito Santo at Wolves are the few exceptions.

Q – There has been a lot of talk about the impact of Marcelo Bielsa and his methods this season – how do you assess the job he has done and the way he has done it?

A – Even if you take promotion out of the equation his impact has been phenomenal. The raising of standards, the humility he shows whilst commanding the deepest respect, the intensity of training and the diligence in performing his professional duty but, more than anything, how he has coached a mid-table squad into a promotion-chasing outfit with few additions are the highlights.

You have to remember that this season has also been beset with multiple injuries, many of which have been bizarre. The dressing room is unified, the fanbase adores him and the style of play, and the city is bouncing.

Q – How did the “spygate” row affect the club – if at all?

A – Spygate in my opinion was an injustice. How and why can you be fined for standing on a public highway for watching training whilst not breaking the rules nor the law? The furore it stirred led to well-known pundits making erroneous statements about trespass, damage and calling Bielsa’s integrity into question.

Bielsa and the club were dignified and in that memorable press briefing he gave, Marcelo revealed not only the extent to which his professional dedication extends, but also showed how far short of the mark many of his peers were falling. The protracted saga did not affect the team, but it diverted Bielsa’s energies and that of the senior management during a campaign that has been exhausting every resource as it is.

Q – If Leeds were to miss out on automatic promotion, how do you think they would fare in the play-offs?

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A – History has been unkind when it comes to the play-offs for United. Agonisingly they lost the first-ever one in 1987 late on after taking Charlton to a third game at St Andrews, after the initial two-legged tie had finished all-square.

In 2006 they were obliterated 3-0 by Watford in Cardiff and two years later, after being relegated to League One, they fell 1-0 at Wembley to Doncaster Rovers, having overcome a 15-point deduction to almost return to the Championship at the first time of asking.

A year later they lost the semi-final to Millwall over two legs by the odd goal in three, having missed a penalty too. So, although none of that  has a bearing this year, there is always a sense with supporters that United do not do play-offs!

One thing is for sure, Bielsa will not deviate from his philosophy and his players will not panic. They deserve automatic promotion and it would be a travesty if they did not go straight up. I think they could still do it because they have coped with many pressurised moments since August.

Q – How big a blow would it be to the club if they ultimately fail to win promotion this season?

A – Huge to be honest. Personally, I do not expect Bielsa to stay if United remain in the Championship. His influence throughout the club has been so benign and pervasive that he will be the hardest act to follow. Chairman Andrea Radrizzani admits he cannot keep funding a loss making entity ad infinitum, so either more investment from the San Francisco 49ers or elsewhere will be required at some point.

However, the plans for a new sporting village and training ground by Elland Road remain exciting and hopefully will still come to fruition. The club is finally heading in the right direction finally after years of being mismanaged. Promotion would accelerate its recovery.

Q – How have ex-Bees Stuart Dallas and Adam Forshaw done this season?

A – In an injury-ravaged year the pair have had their share and so have made a limited amount of appearances.

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Forshaw showed his neat and tidy ball retention abilities when he first arrived last season from Middlesbrough. He is a great professional and has had to play second fiddle to the brilliant Kalvin Phillips and also Mateusz Klich. The latter pair have improved exponentially under Bielsa.

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Dallas has  been a squad player who has featured more at right-back when called upon, but has played in several positions under Bielsa. Great experience to have from the bench and has not let anyone down when called upon in a frustrating season for him individually.

Q – What style of play can Bees fans expect to see from Leeds on Monday?

A – Leeds play a sublime passing game which puts the ball at risk. Depending on how many the Bees play up front, you will see Kalvin Phillips either sit in front of the back four or between the centre-backs.

United play with a lone striker in Patrick Bamford or Kemar Roofe and have Tyler Roberts adapting well in the number 10 role. The magic comes from Pablo Hernandez, who influences proceedings from a nominal starting position on the wing.

Q – Who are the main players who Bees fans should watch out for?

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A – Hernandez at 34 has been phenomenal and it’s a scandal that he did not make the Championship team of the year. He has the vision and skills of a Premier League player. In recent games his influence has been compared to that of Gordon Strachan the last time the club was promoted to the top flight in 89-90.

Rivalling him for player of the year is hometown boy Kalvin Phillips. Destroyer, enforcer and a composed passer with a varied range have turned him into a crucial cog in a slickly oiled machine.

Q – Finally can you tell me a likely Leeds line-up and formation please?

A –  Casilla
Ayling Jansson Cooper Alioski

Phillips

Klich   Roberts

Hernandez                  Harrison

Bamford

BEESOTTED SCORE PREDICTIONS

Some of the Beesotted crew have given me their score predictions for Monday’s game.

3-0 no danger. The Mighty Gem

Bees temporarily put the beach towels away and win 2-1. Maupay winner. Matt Allard

Leeds get taken down a notch or two as they lose 2-1 to a Brentford team detirmined to maintain the integrity of the Championship. Liberal Nick

2-1 Bees. Brentford awake from their recent stupor to remind us of what might have been, as an early Leeds goal is cancelled out by a Maupay brace. Ali Mullaley

Tight passionate game but Leeds want it more and come through 1-0 winners. Savvy Bee

IAN WESTBROOK

@ianwestbrook

PUBS IN BRENTFORD AND TRAVEL NEWS

For Leeds fans coming to the game, 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. After the game on Monday, however, both of these will be home fans only.

The Princess Royal and the Royal Oak are the other options.

We believe that hardly any of the pubs around the ground or nearby will be showing the game live on TV.

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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.

And another new pub worth checking out is The Black Dog Beer House, formerly The Albany, on Albany Road.

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, with a deck overlooking the river – and The Express Tavern (Kew Bridge Road) – an ale pub with a retro feel. There are a load more pubs in the river in Kew if that takes your fancy.

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 our for the parking signs which change from area to area.

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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.

By tube, it’s 35 minutes to South Ealing or Northfields stations from King’s Cross or Euston (less from Paddington) and then 15 minutes walk to Griffin Park from there (4 mins on the bus) – more if you take the Northfields to Brentford pub crawl outlined above (Plough, Lord Nelson, Globe, Griffin) of course. If you’re feeling lazy you could take the E2 bus from outside Northfields station to either outside The Globe pub (3 stops – serves The Lord Nelson too) or Brentford FC (4 stops).

You can check out Transport for London’s Easter guide to travel on the Tube and Overground.

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About The Author

Ian Westbrook

Bees fan since 1971 - been through all the ups and downs. Written about, reported on, commentated on and wittered on about all things Brentford in that time as well as watching hundreds, if not thousands of games, and loved every minute of it!

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