Bristol City v Leeds United: Marcelo Bielsa backs players to hold their own nerve in crucial Championship run-in

MARCELO Bielsa says his Leeds United players deserve "freedom and independence" to personally deal with any mental demands or nerves for the crucial Championship run-in.

By Lee Sobot
Friday, 8th March 2019, 12:04 pm
Updated Friday, 8th March 2019, 12:08 pm
TRUST: From Leeds United head coach Marcelo Bielsa.
TRUST: From Leeds United head coach Marcelo Bielsa.

Bielsa has Leeds facing their best ever chance of a long-awaited return to the Premier League after a 15-year absence with the Whites sat second with just 11 games remaining, starting with Saturday's clash at sixth-placed Bristol City.

Leeds are only two points behind leaders Norwich City who take on Swansea City at Carrow Road on Friday night and the Whites hold a two-point cushion in the division's automatic promotion places ahead of third-placed Sheffield United who take on Rotherham United for a Saturday lunch-time kick-off at Bramall Lane.

After Leeds visit fourth-bottom Reading and Sheffield United welcome 15th-placed Brentford on Tuesday evening, the Whites and Blades will then lock horns for a crucial clash at Elland Road next Saturday lunch-time.

Bielsa has already admitted the outcome of every remaining game will have "very heavy consequences" with the Whites closing in on a money-spinning return to the country's top flight but the trusting Whites head coach insists there is no need to take extra provisions over psychological demands.

Asked if he was watching out for the mental state of his players and nerves at a critical point of the season, Bielsa explained: "We focus more on details because the more you accumulate games in weeks and months of competition, the stronger is the structure of the group and the team.

"So what we try to do is to correct the small things we see.

"In this team the mental state is more something that is the responsibility of the players, they manage that by themselves because they showed they deserved this freedom, this independence.

"Apart from the fact we could have ups and downs, they always build the right state of mind to compete.

"The players could overcome the bad moments and they got good moments too."

Saturday's hosts Bristol City looked on course to gatecrash the division's automatic promotion picture when winning seven games in a row between the end of December and mid-February but a haul of just one point out of a last possible nine has left the Robins 13 points behind Leeds but with a game in hand.

"It’s obviously one of the important teams of the Championship," said Bielsa.

"It’s a balanced team with good players in all the sectors and they have a clear style and they can use their ideas of football in almost all games."