Marcelo Bielsa has his say after Leeds United continually hailed best side in the division

SHOWERED WITH PRAISE: Leeds United head coach Marcelo Bielsa. Photo by George Wood/Getty Images.SHOWERED WITH PRAISE: Leeds United head coach Marcelo Bielsa. Photo by George Wood/Getty Images.
SHOWERED WITH PRAISE: Leeds United head coach Marcelo Bielsa. Photo by George Wood/Getty Images.
MARCELO BIELSA has frequently seen his Leeds United side praised to the hilt by opposing Championship managers this term.

Bristol City boss Lee Johnson got the ball rolling on the opening weekend, citing a difference in quality between his Robins and Whites following their 3-1 reverse at Ashton Gate.

Nottingham Forest boss Sabri Lamouchi then described the Whites as the "best team in the league" following a 1-1 draw at Elland Road and the theme continued.

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Leeds will go up said Wigan boss Paul Cook. Former Stoke City manager Nathan Jones then said he'd put his house on Leeds being promoted if he didn't love it so much.

The best team in the division - again - then reasoned Barnsley boss Daniel Stendel.

Even without playing the Whites, Middlesbrough boss and former Leeds favourite Jonathan Woodgate has already declared United are one of the Championship's best.

Showered with compliments and also the bookmakers' favourites to make amends for last season's play-offs heartache in the ultimate style through promotion as champions.

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At the beginning of the season, even Whites boss Bielsa felt the Championship was possibly weaker than last year's.

Yet 14 games into the new campaign United's head coach is not so sure with Bielsa describing leaders West Brom as the division's "great team" and also hailing Fulham amongst a fiercely competitive chasing pack.

Ahead of a weekend in which just six points covered the entire top half, Bielsa was asked if this season's Championship was stronger or weaker than last season's and reasoned: "I don’t have a response for that. Fulham is a team with very good performance, but the relationship between performance and results is not similar. They play better than their results.

"West Brom are a great team and after you have a big group of teams. Even if they are not teams with a big impact, the same level as West Brom and Fulham, but it’s a big group of those kinds of teams."

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"You ask this because maybe you think the competition is weaker than last season. In the beginning, I thought that as well. In this moment, I would say there are fewer quality teams, but more difficult teams to play against."

Leeds, though, are also proving exactly that with the Whites boasting the best defensive record in the division via only eight goals conceded in their first 14 games.

United's problems have been at the other end with only 17 netted - the joint worst in the top half along with Nottingham Forest who have played one game less.

Comparably, leaders West Brom have slammed in 26, albeit conceding 17, with second-placed Preston North End the division's top scorers with 27.

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But United's defence is providing the platform from which to build from though Bielsa says every member of his team has been in some way responsible for the impressive record at the back and not just defensive players Kiko Casilla, Luke Ayling, Liam Cooper, Ben White, Stuart Dallas, Gaetano Berardi, Gjanni Alioski, Barry Douglas and Kalvin Phillips.

"When we defend, we defend with all the players," said Bielsa.

"The offensive players help the defensive players to try to defend better, and after we had a high level individually. That is the real explanation, reason to explain the defensive reality.

"We have also experience to defend. Casilla, Ayling, Cooper, Berardi, Douglas - they are experienced players. Phillips and White are young players who develop rapidly.

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"After the contribution of Dallas, he played in a lot of positions, he did well."

Asked in particular about the impact of Brighton loanee White - man of the match in last weekend's goaless draw at Sheffield Wednesday - Bielsa said: "It’s a high performance from him. It’s very difficult to keep this level in a long period and he is achieving this. The analysis is positive."

And so too is the overall outlook from White's defensive partner and skipper Cooper who agreed with Bielsa's assessment of a Championship offering less quality but harder teams to beat.

"I'd definitely say so," said Cooper.

"I think teams are always going to change the way they play against us.

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"Obviously we are a big scalp to be had in the Championship and I think everybody knows teams always seem to get that extra three or four per cent out of themselves when they play against us.

"But that's what we have got to take on board, we have got to embrace that and we have got to really bring our style to fruition and I think we have the majority of the time this season.

"Obviously we have created enough chances in games to have a lot more points than we have at the minute but that all comes at certain parts of the season and I think a lot of people have said that can't carry on like that.

"If we keep creating these chances they are going to go in and we are going to win more games and pick more points up and we have got to stick to that.

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"We know what we have got to do, we have got to approach every game in the right manner and we do that as a group to be fair, we always have done and try and take three points in every game."

Asked about Leeds continually being referred to as the best team in the league, Cooper reasoned: "It's always nice that managers can say that but I don't think you can determine who is the best team in the league until the league is finished come May.

"We play a very nice style of football, a positive style of football and an attacking style of football which is great to be part of.

"We know we can score goals and we know we can defend but that comes as a team.

"We will always try to do our best, we will always approach the games properly and that's all we can do and come the end of May we will know who the best team in the league is."