A downbeat Marcelo Bielsa conceded that Leeds United’s automatic promotion bid was hanging by a thread after back-to-back defeats over the Easter weekend wrecked their chances of a top-two finish.
Bielsa said the prospect of Leeds beating Norwich City or Sheffield United to second place was “very difficult” as he reflected on a 2-0 loss at Brentford which threatened to consign his side to the Championship play-offs.
United suffered a costly defeat to Wigan Athletic on Good Friday and were picked off by goals from Neal Maupay and Sergi Canos at Griffin Park, leaving Bielsa’s players with diminished hope of reaching the Premier League automatically.
Leeds are six points behind leaders Norwich and three adrift of Sheffield United, who play relegated Ipswich Town in their penultimate match at Bramall Lane this weekend.
Norwich need only a point from their last two fixtures to guarantee a place in the top flight and one more win is likely to be enough for the Blades, owing to Leeds’ inferior goal difference.
Bielsa said: “I'm very sad. We had the hope to finish first or second but with the loss of today it's going to be very difficult.
“As long as the maths say something we'll be following them but we know our opportunity was in the last two games we played. The sadness is linked to the fact that we could have changed just a few things to get different results. Small details would have made a difference.
“The game today looks like many games we played this year. We had offensive actions but without efficiency. This is the summary of our season. We have many chances to score compared to the goals we actually score and if we had a normal efficiency, we would have 10 or 12 points more now. But it's not the case.”
Leeds were denied what looked like a clear penalty in the first half at Brentford when Julian Jeanvier brought down Patrick Bamford but Bielsa’s team struggled to create clear chances and were cut down by clinical finishes from Maupay on 45 minutes and Canos on 62 minutes.
United were four games away from ending a 15-year exile from the Premier League before losing their Good Friday clash to 10-man Wigan but Bielsa denied that pressure had got the better of his squad amid a tense fight to go up.
“I’m going to paraphrase Tiger Woods,” Bielsa said. “He says that when you’re fighting for something important, you always have pressure. When something important is at stake, there’s pressure.
“But if there’s something I can say for sure it’s that our team was never affected by pressure. Really never. If we want to say why we don’t have 10 points more, we just have to take a look at how many chances other teams need to score and how many chances we need to score.
“There are many examples this season which illustrate what I’m talking about. The level of the team has always been the same. Of course the team has limits but that has nothing to do with a mental aspect. I’d almost say the opposite. This team has hidden many limits with huge effort.”