Marcelo Bielsa faces a big task to lift Leeds United players for play-offs

He may have denied that his players have lacked confidence in recent games, but Marcelo Bielsa has a big job on his hands to lift them for the big play-offs task ahead.

Wednesday, 8th May 2019, 5:55 pm
Marcelo Bielsa.

Leeds United go into the Championship play-offs in just about the worst possible form after taking just one point from their last four league games.

They could not even give themselves a little boost with a victory over rock bottom Ipswich Town as they somehow contrived to lose 3-2 to opponent long since relegated and despite playing the last 15 minutes with an extra man after Ipswich defender Luke Chambers was sent-off after conceding a penalty.

That spot kick was missed as Kemar Roofe followed in the footsteps of Patrick Bamford and Pablo Hernandez by making it three failed penalties in a row – hardly a brilliant way to go into play-offs that could be decided by a penalty shoot-out, although he did slip just as he was making contact with the ball.

Once again Leeds missed plenty of chances to win comfortably and once again there were worries about the defending, which has been impressive for much of the campaign, but has been rocky in the run-in.

So it is clear Bielsa has plenty of problems to solve ahead of the play-offs semi-final, which will see United travel to play Derby County on Saturday teatime with the return at Elland Road next Wednesday.

Traditionally tight, these matches are about as tense as it gets with so much at stake and it may well come down to bottle as much as ability.

Leeds should have nothing to fear from their play-off rivals as they have beaten Derby twice convincingly each time this season, they took four points against Aston Villa and only suffered one league defeat against any of the other teams when losing at West Brom.

That was redressed in the return game at Elland Road as they hammered the Baggies.

But it is the competition itself that offers the most fears with United having failed in all four of their previous attempts to gain promotion by this method.

Derby also have a dreadful record in play-offs, but the mood in their camp is different this time as they are delighted just to be in them. They had to take seven points from three games in the last week of the regular season to earn their place and showed courage.

Bielsa, meanwhile, has some selection decisions to make. He likes to stick largely to the same team week in, week out, but with a number of the players off form there have been calls from fans to make changes.

He is limited in this regard, however, with Ezgjan Alioski and Barry Douglas ruled out though injury and striker Patrick Bamford set to sit out the second game of his ban, although he will be available for the return leg.

Tyler Roberts missed the Ipswich game with an ankle injury, but has a chance of being fit for the Derby trip and as one of the better players in the last month he could be a key figure if he can shake off his knock.