Bielsa: Stoke a "strong rival" for Leeds United but no predictions on Potters

RESPECTFUL: Stoke City boss Gary Rowett.
RESPECTFUL: Stoke City boss Gary Rowett.
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MARCELO BIELSA admits Leeds United face a "strong rival" against Stoke City in his first game in charge but will not label the Potters as the toughest test in the division.

Stoke have splashed the cash in the summer transfer market whilst maintaining the bulk of last season's players from their Premier League relegation and Gary Rowett's side are favourites to win the division.

Bielsa can expect a white hot atmosphere for an eagerly-awaited Sunday showdown broadcast live on Sky but the Argentinian is reluctant to say that taking on the Potters presents the hardest assignment in the division.

"It’s a strong rival," admitted Bielsa ahead of today's 4.30pm kick-off.

"But it would be risky to say it’s the most important rival before the season because sometimes what we imagine before the season starts doesn’t occur.

"It’s very hard to predict. I wouldn’t dare to make any predictions."

Bielsa and Stoke boss Rowett will both be taking in their first competitive games in charge of their respective clubs with Rowett having left Derby County at the end of last season to move to the Potters.

Asked about the prospect of facing another manager in their first game in charge, Bielsa said: "The physiology of the opponent is interesting for me, but I don’t consider details as a priority."

Stoke boss Rowett, meanwhile, admits he is excited about pitting his wits against Bielsa who he has backed to prove a big hit at Leeds.

"They’ve brought in a world level coach," said Rowett.

"If you hear Pep Guardiola say he’s the greatest coach in the world that’s lofty praise isn’t it?

“I think it shows how revered the Championship is and how the money dropping from the Premier League can now attract players and managers from all over the globe. I think it’s fantastic.

“He has proved over a period of time that he’s a top manager and I’m sure that given time he will be a massive success with Leeds.

“But it’s like anything: when you’re a new manager trying to impart your own ideas, when you’re in a different division, I think everyone is in the same boat and you hope your ideas are taken on straight away.

“I think it’s a fantastic thing to sit opposite someone like that and pit your wits against them.

“I expect Leeds to be very strong this season and their manager to have a massive effect. We know it will be a difficult challenge on Sunday.”

Asked if Stoke could live up to their billing as title favourites, Rowett said: "What’s important is to realise we can’t control it. It’s a compliment in terms of how people see our squad, it’s that we were a Premier League side last year. That’s all it is. It’s not something we can control.

“It’s not something we particularly want to talk about in terms of feeling whether it’s justified. We are aware that we still have to earn everything that we’re going to get.

"Nobody is going to get promoted over a 46-game season because you’re the favourites at the beginning with the bookmakers. We have to have a lot more humility and realise we have to earn the right to be that.

“The fact we’ve got a good squad is great but we have to make sure that good squad fights for every point we’re going to get this season. So we don’t take an awful lot of notice of the odds.”