Championship too close to call, says Marcelo Bielsa, as Leeds United prepare for Reading clash

Leeds United head coach Marcelo Bielsa, whose side play Reading on Tuesday night.
Leeds United head coach Marcelo Bielsa, whose side play Reading on Tuesday night.
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Marcelo Bielsa admitted the Championship was proving too close to call this season as he predicted that Leeds United’s bid for promotion would rest on their ability to handle spells of poor form.

Bielsa warned against any complacency and said he was “never sure the good moments will last” despite Leeds occupying a top-six place since the first weekend of the campaign.

The club have been among the frontrunners since early August in a league which has seen first place change hands regularly over the course of 18 matches.

Norwich City lie two points clear after a remarkable run of six straight wins but third-placed Leeds continue to sit prominently inside the play-off zone after a 2-0 win over Bristol City on Saturday.

Bielsa’s players will attempt to consolidate their position further at home to Reading tonight but the United head coach claimed the division was yet to properly take shape and insisted he was not assured of his side lasting the pace over 46 games.

The top seven teams in the table are currently separated by just six points.

Bielsa, who is midway through his first year in English football, said: “I already knew it was going to be a difficult competition but I wasn’t expecting that so many teams would be able to fight for the first ranking. I also thought it would be easier for some teams to show they had a good level.

“I’m never sure that the good moments will last and I’m not sure that we will be able to overcome our difficult moments. How many times are we going to play well and when will we have our downs? If we think that we will always play well then we are ignoring the reality that all teams go through. Until today, all the leading teams have had ups and downs.

“The most important thing is how we arrive at the crucial moment; the condition we are in at the crucial moments which will decide the competition. The position you have in the table before the last 15 per cent of games allows you to make the more definite calls.”

United’s quality told against 10-men on Saturday as Bristol City were picked off in the final 21 minutes at Elland Road and Reading have been fighting to keep themselves out of the relegation places since the early stages of the campaign.

Paul Clement’s side have recorded just four league wins but Bielsa described them as “not fragile” and told his players to disregard the gap of 17 places and 16 points between them.

“If you have a look at the results after every game it’s very hard to say who’s at the top of the table and who’s at the bottom of the table,” Bielsa said. “You would tell that me that the best are at the top and the worst are at the bottom but when a team at the top plays a team at the bottom, there’s not much difference.

“The leading teams are not that superior to the teams at the bottom and when I analyse Reading, they are not a weak team. I’m honest when I say this. They have strong players and when I look at their performances, they are not fragile.”