A history like no other as Leeds United head coach Marcelo Bielsa and Chelsea boss Frank Lampard approach 'Part V'

THERE ARE eight managers who Leeds United head coach Marcelo Bielsa has faced four times during his two and a half years at Elland Road.

Wednesday, 2nd December 2020, 5:45 am

Preston North End boss Alex Neil even trumps that with Bielsa and Neil having had four battles over two seasons in the Championship plus a Carabao Cup tie.

Yet no opposition boss provides quite the same backdrop to the man who will be in the opposition dugout on Saturday evening when Leeds face Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in Marcelo Bielsa versus Frank Lampard Part V.

Lee Johnson, Tony Mowbray, Dean Smith, Paul Cook, Neil Harris, Nathan Jones and Garry Monk complete the octet of managers that Bielsa has already faced four times.

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WE'LL MEET AGAIN: Leeds United head coach Marcelo Bielsa, left, and then Derby County boss Frank Lampard at Pride Park before the third of their four meetings in the 2018-19 Championship season. Picture by Tony Johnson.

Yet all four battles against Lampard came in the same season and that doesn’t even tell the half of it.

It all began on the second Thursday of August in 2018 as Bielsa was asked about the weekend’s clash at a Derby side for whom former Chelsea and England midfielder Lampard was taking in just his second game in charge - a game which would end in a 4-1 defeat.

“The head coach of Derby is a glory of English football and this always has a big influence on a team,” said Bielsa, and Rams boss Lampard was equally respectful.

“I am certainly looking forward to meeting him and intrigued to go up against him in a managerial battle. It will be a big welcome from myself and I think it should be from the club because he’s a great manager.”

It is only ironic that a member of Bielsa’s staff was then very much unwelcome in the build-up to the reverse fixture at Elland Road five months later as Bielsa was caught sending a member of his staff to spy on a Derby training session. Lampard was less than impressed.

“On a sportsman’s level it’s bad. It’s disrupted our build-up to this game.”

Amidst binoculars gestures in the stands as fans saw the funny side, United’s head coach took his record to two wins from two against his opposite number as goals from Kemar Roofe and Jack Harrison sealed a league double against the Rams at Elland Road.

Yet the drama was still only just getting started with Bielsa then holding an epic 70-minute press conference to explain his actions the following week, admitting that he had dispatched scouts to watch every Championship club train so far that season.

United and Bielsa were then handed their punishment the following month when fined £200,000 by the EFL for breaching their “good faith” rule.

Leeds, who had already apologised to Derby, apologised once more and Bielsa paid the fine himself in full.

Yet, as far as Bielsa and Lampard were concerned, the tale was not even half complete with the two sides then ultimately facing each other in the play-offs, ahead of which Lampard insisted the 'spygate' episode was done.

“I don’t want to be a cry baby,” said Lampard in March 2019 and Bielsa then took his record to 3-0 in the individual battle against the Rams boss as Kemar Roofe’s strike sealed a 1-0 victory in the first leg at Pride Park.

"Stop crying Frank Lampard" went the song.

Yet nobody at Elland Road needs reminding of what happened in the second leg as Lampard had the last laugh in the Bielsa battle and Derby’s celebrations proved that spygate had not been forgotten after all.

It proved Lampard’s penultimate game in charge with Derby’s victory against Leeds offering false hope as the Rams were beaten in the play-off final by Aston Villa, after which Lampard left to take charge of Chelsea.

As far as Leeds and Derby were concerned, United had the last laugh on that score in being promoted as champions the following term with Derby consigned to another season in the Championship. Now the Rams are merely battling to stay there.

Yet Lampard’s focus is now on becoming champions of England with Chelsea and victory this weekend could send his side top.

To do so, he will have to pull one back in his already hugely eventful record against Leeds United’s head coach.

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Thank you Laura Collins