Marcelo Bielsa lays down promotion challenge to Leeds United as Championship run-in heats up
Marcelo Bielsa has challenged Leeds United to win all five of their remaining games and kill off the challenge of Sheffield United, admitting one poor result could decide their season.
Bielsa warned that Leeds’ margin for error was smaller than ever despite midweek results giving them renewed control of second place in the Championship.
The club hold an automatic promotion spot by virtue of their win at Preston North End on Tuesday night and Sheffield United’s 1-1 draw with Birmingham City the following evening, a result which positioned the Blades a point behind Bielsa’s team.
Both sides have held the initiative in the past month before passing it up and Leeds will attempt to hold their nerve when they host Sheffield Wednesday at Elland Road on Saturday evening.
Sheffield United play earlier in the day, at home to Millwall, but Bielsa denied that the staggered timing of the matches would offer any advantage or change his approach for the visit of Wednesday.
Bielsa, who claimed he had not watched Sheffield United’s game at St Andrews despite the significance of it, said: “We have to win the five games left. When you have few points left to win because you’re in the last few games of the league, the gap or the space for mistakes reduces. Anything can happen in one football game.
“Any of the results of our opponents could make us play more freely or play with more responsibility but with any result they (Sheffield United) get, we still need to win the games.
“For us, to play the games with an obligation to win is nothing new. I don’t remember playing one game without thinking we had to win it.”
Leeds’ defeat of Preston maintained an astonishing record of 19 wins from the 19 league matches in which Bielsa’s side have opened the scoring. His players have conceded just six goals in those fixtures.
United’s head coach has refused to divert from his positive tactics all season, though he admitted his insistence on constantly pushing for goals left him vulnerable to criticism.
“If the other team draw because you try to score a second goal, people claim that the team should be more defensive,” he said. “But if you try to be defensive and you draw, people ask ‘why did you not try to get a second goal?’ You can make different interpretations of this.”
Leeds reached 79 points after their 2-0 victory at Deepdale, the best season by a United side in the Championship statistically since Howard Wilkinson took the club to promotion in 1990.
United are six points short of the final tally under Wilkinson with 15 to play for but Bielsa said: “The only important thing is if we get promoted. I won't make any analysis until we meet this objective.
“We play with the obligation to get promoted, not to make the best season.”