Leeds United boss Marcelo Bielsa: It’s only half-time in play-off semi-final
It is advantage Leeds United at the half-way stage, but no-one connected with the club is expecting anything of an easy ride into the Championship play-off final tonight.
Kemar Roofe’s goal gave United a 1-0 win at Derby County in the first leg, but as the Champions League semi-finals showed last week anything can happen in the return matches and there have been so many ups and downs in Leeds’ season since the turn of the year that expect the unexpected has become the best description.
There is no doubt that Leeds have dominated all three of their meetings with Frank Lampard’s side this season, but all this will stand for nothing if they cannot find a way to get through tonight’s match with their lead intact.
Head coach Marcelo Bielsa was delighted with his side’s display at Pride Park, but has sounded a note of caution ahead of the second meeting in four days with the Rams.
He said: “We still have 90 minutes to play and we only have a difference of one goal.
“If we take as a reference what happened in the last Champions League games, we shouldn’t draw conclusions about it. Every game is a new situation.
“It’s two games, but actually we could say it’s just one game and we have played the first half and usually you don’t make comments at half-time. And you do usually work in order to build the superiority in the time you still have to play. The first game was not simple for us and we showed that the next game won’t be easy either.
“We know that there is a long path to reach our goal together, we just played the part of the duel and we have the second part to play now, the difference is only one goal, and the idea is to increase this difference and prevent the opponent from reducing it.”
On the performance in the first leg, Bielsa said: “It’s a mix of everything. The physical performance of the team was very good, it’s one of our best physical performances of the season, the performance of the team was positive.
“In the previous games we played also against Aston Villa and it shows the level of competition of our team and the other three games were games we could have won but didn’t win.”
Leeds have been dealt a fresh injury blow ahead of the game with goal hero from Saturday Roofe ruled out with a calf problem. They will also be without midfielder Adam Forshaw, who went off injured in the first leg, while Tyler Roberts, Ezgjan Alioski and Barry Douglas remain sidelined.
Patrick Bamford is available again after suspension to play up front while defender Pontus Jansson has a chance of being fit to play after missing the game at Derby.
Gaetano Berardi stepped in and earned praise so will deputise if needed while teenager Jamie Shackleton is favourite to start in midfield after impressing Bielsa when coming on as a first half substitute for Forshaw at Pride Park.