Marcelo Bielsa called on his players to embrace the emotion of Leeds United’s biggest game in over a decade with a place in the Championship play-off final on the line tonight.
Bielsa said he wanted his side to play with their hearts as well as their heads and carry the club into a Wembley showpiece on May 27.
Leeds hold a 1-0 advantage over Derby County after their semi-final first leg at Pride Park on Saturday and will have a capacity crowd with them this evening in the first play-off tie to be staged at Elland Road since 2009.
United have not been this close to the Premier League since 2006 when their Championship season ended in a play-off defeat to Watford at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium but a convincing win over the weekend fuelled confidence in their chances of setting up a final against Aston Villa.
Kemar Roofe’s second-half goal settled Saturday’s opening leg in Derby but the striker is out of tonight’s game with a calf strain.
Centre-back Pontus Jansson is hoping to put himself in contention having succumbed to an ankle knock ahead of the first game.
The tie remains finely balanced and Bielsa urged Leeds to feed off the crowd, saying: “Emotion is an ingredient which allows you to use your skills better. It’s something normal and natural and we want to play the game in these conditions.
“We know there’s a long path to our goal. We’ve played the first part of the duel and have the second part to play now. The difference is only one goal and the idea is to increase this distance and prevent the opponent from decreasing it. We know this is a difficult task, as difficult as the first game.”
Aston Villa secured their qualification for Wembley last night with a penalty shoot-out win over West Bromwich Albion at The Hawthorns.
West Brom held a 1-0 lead at the end of extra-time, leaving the two-legged tie level at 1-1, but missed spot-kicks from Mason Holgate and Ahmed Hegazi saw Villa edge the shoot-out 4-3.
Leeds have maintained the second highest average home attendance this season, behind Villa, and Bielsa admitted he had nothing more to ask from the club’s support at the end of his first term as head coach.
“The importance of the Leeds fans in the behaviour of the team has been shown in many moments, when our players faced adversity and overcame it because of the fans,” Bielsa said.
“The fans do that without needing any message and what makes them special is that they don’t answer to things you ask them to do. They don’t need to be asked to do things.
“That’s why I feel I have nothing to ask them. They’ve already given what we need.”