Pontus Jansson admitted that no love was lost between Leeds United and Derby County as the clubs closed in on their play-off semi-final, saying: “They hate us and we hate them.”
The Sweden international described himself as “buzzing” for Saturday's first leg at Pride Park and said he expected some underlying feeling in both camps following controversy involving them earlier in the season.
Leeds beat Derby 4-1 at Pride Park in August and 2-0 at Elland Road in January, turning in two of their most convincing performances, but the January fixture was dominated by the ‘Spygate’ saga which blew up 24 hours before kick-off.
United head coach Marcelo Bielsa and Derby’s Frank Lampard have both made efforts to play down that dispute in the build-up to their semi-final tie but County striker Mason Bennett revisited it yesterday by saying Lampard’s squad had been “fuming”.
Asked if there would be more of an edge tomorrow because of past history, Jansson said: “First of all there’s been two good football games, especially from our side. We played two good games and it’ll be the same: two good games between us with good football and high intensity, probably a lot of goals and Leeds as the winners again.
“Everything else outside of that, there’s no meaning in talking about it. They hate us probably and we hate them. That’s how we go into the game. It’ll be nice for the spectators to see two good football games.”
The centre-back, who is a minor doubt with an ankle knock, later clarified that comment, saying: “Hate is not the right word.
“That’s just me as a football supporter, maybe using the wrong word, maybe because of everything that happened, and we beat them twice and we are Leeds. Leeds are Leeds in England. Hate is maybe not the right word but you understand what I mean.”
United finished nine points ahead of Derby in the Championship table but lost their way near the finishing line, taking one win from their last four games and allowing automatic promotion to slip away.
Derby’s current record shows one defeat in 12 but Jansson insisted that Bielsa’s players had cleared their heads of the disappointment of dropping out of the top two.
“You have to decide,” he said. “Either you be sad that we lost automatic promotion or the other side is that you look forward. We’re buzzing for the play-offs. If you’d said before the season that we’ve have the play-offs then I would say ‘yes, it would be nice.’
“We decided at the beginning of this week to look forward to it and accept it. Don’t feel sad that you lost automatic promotion. Use it as motivation.
“Wembley and to go through the play-offs is amazing. It’s a harder way but if you can go that way then it’s unbelievable. You have to look at it that way.”