Marcelo Bielsa on what makes facing West Ham's Michail Antonio so tough for Leeds United

Marcelo Bielsa says dealing with the physical challenge of the likes of West Ham's Michail Antonio is made harder for defenders due to referees not letting the two compete on equal terms.

By Joe Urquhart
Saturday, 15th January 2022, 4:09 pm
Updated Saturday, 15th January 2022, 4:10 pm

For a second Sunday in a row, Antonio will provide the opposition attack to Leeds United's back four.

The Whites travel to face the Hammers in Premier League action this weekend having been beaten 2-0 in the FA Cup last Sunday at the London Stadium.

Antonio bagged a 90th-minute winner at Elland Road earlier in the campaign and will be hoping to taste similar joy in the capital.

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West Ham striker Michail Antonio in action against Leeds United. Pic: Getty

Asked how difficult it will be to halt his advances, Bielsa referred to the role match officials play to create an attack vs defence imbalance across the game.

“We have to see how the rules interpret the situations that happen,” Bielsa stated.

“When a striker moves a defender away normally it is not a foul but when a defender moves a striker away using their arms, for example, it is so it is clear even though the rule is for all the players, in practice it is applied differently.

“I’m not saying it is bad or good, I am saying this is what happens.

“In the game against Burnley there were also a lot of actions of that type.

“We have to learn to adapt to a reality you can see clearly.

“At set-pieces, for example, when an opponent obstructs the movement of a defender to lose their marker, there’s an infinite amount of those actions not sanctioned but if that same thing happens outside of the box, it is normally a foul.

“The same thing happens when you put yourself in the way of the goalkeeper. When an opponent is positioned where he is going to get himself in his path, intentionally, that’s how obstruction is described but the goalkeepers suffer this constantly and they never blow for this.

“So I think you have to adapt and understand the criteria. VAR (the video assistant referee system) has the possibility to verify all of this."

On West Ham' s season so far, Bielsa said: "It’s a fight that they deserve, the one that they are taking forward.

"It's a team that has variants for each position and they have adapted to the absences that they have had, they are a team of power offensively and with a very solid structure.”