YEP Jury: Leeds United must keep feet firmly on ground after return to ‘planet football’

Leeds United head coach Marcelo Bielsa.
Leeds United head coach Marcelo Bielsa.
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Our YEP Jury discuss the week’s ‘Spygate’ developments and Leeds United’s trip to Stoke City tomorrow.

DAVID WATKINS

Former Stoke City manager Gary Rowett.

Former Stoke City manager Gary Rowett.

After another week of ‘Leeds Against the World’ in the aftermath of ‘Spygate’, we get back to the football tomorrow with a first visit to Stoke in 12 years.

One thing we can be confident of is that there will be nothing about Stoke players or their new manager Nathan Jones that is not documented in Marcelo Bielsa’s data bank despite no-one having peered over the fence at their Clayton Wood training facility!

We are told Marcelo has already viewed all 26 Luton Town games this season under Jones as well, just in case there was anything to be learned, but surely it will take time to create a new ‘MO’ for the Potters.

They are in desperate need of one, having now got stuck in a rut of no wins in six and this week they bowed out of the FA Cup in an embarrassing 3-2 home defeat to neighbours Shrewsbury Town.

New Stoke City boss Nathan Jones.

New Stoke City boss Nathan Jones.

If Leeds repeat the quality we saw against Derby, a trip to Stoke should prove no more taxing and I’m expecting a decent win for the ‘Mighty Whites’.

Prediction: Stoke City 0 Leeds United 3.

ANDY RHODES

It’s like we’ve been living on a different planet this last week. The actual football has taken a bit of a back seat amidst the ‘Spygate’ row which in itself is arguably the greatest injustice because we all saw how good Leeds were on Friday night.

Whether spying is right or wrong, Marcelo Bielsa and Leeds have a job to do at Stoke tomorrow and, while ‘Spygate’ will rumble on, the best thing they could do would be to win without such covert surveillance methods at play.

The Potters have no wins in six games and, despite parting ways with Gary Rowett, new boss Nathan Jones couldn’t prevent a spectacular defeat to League One Shrewsbury in the FA Cup on Tuesday.

Friday showed that, despite their comprehensive injury list, Leeds have the tools to dismantle some of the best teams the Championship has to offer and, if they set about Stoke as they did Derby, then all the spying in the world won’t save Nathan Jones. The bookmakers’ odds have turned since August, haven’t they Gary?

Prediction: Stoke City 1 Leeds United 2.

MATTHEW EVANS

It’s hard to imagine another United game this season without ‘Spygate’ getting a mention in the pre-match build up.

Marcelo Bielsa was on every newspaper back page yesterday following his extraordinary press conference on Wednesday evening. Something else that’s hard to imagine is the level of unity around the club right now, just a few years on from the divisions of Massimo Cellino’s reign.

Amid all of the varied (often ludicrous) opinions about Bielsa’s techniques, that steely ‘could-not-care-less’ attitude of Leeds fans and players has grown and grown and turned an already formidable atmosphere even more electric.

Given all of that, the way we systematically took Derby apart and the problems that Stoke have had this season, I travel to Stafffordshire with a smile and expectations of a win.

I’m backing a repeat of our opening game.

Prediction: Stoke City 1 Leeds United 3.

KEITH INGHAM

Tomorrow brings a trip to Stoke to face the team we opened the season against.

Many things have happened since that day back in August, great things, good players and one we’d rather not have happened.

Marcelo Bielsa showed the assembled press corps what planning goes into games, with dossiers, white boards and videos. He mesmerised them with the facts and figures and most surprisingly informed them that he has watched all the clubs Leeds have played so far season. Without doubt the ‘stock’ of the head coach went up with the Leeds fans, despite the criticism of many ex-footballers.

Leeds looked so much better with Liam Cooper back in defence as they ran Derby into the Elland Road turf. Izzy Brown featured and scored in the Under-23’s 2-0 victory over Crewe, but is still a few weeks away from a possible first-team game.

Stoke parted company with Gary Rowett and installed Luton Town’s Nathan Jones as their new manager. His first Championship game ended in a 3-1 defeat at Brentford. It was followed by a 3-2 defeat by Shrewsbury Town in the third round of the FA Cup.

Without doubt Jones has had a ‘baptism of fire’ but will see the game with Leeds as a chance to get home fans behind him and his squad.

We’ve not had the best records at Stoke. I remember the game when Leeds lost their unbeaten record (1973/74) there and a couple of heavy defeats in the 80s, but this Saturday I’m hoping for a positive result to carry on the superb work of last week.

If I may, I’d like my piece to pay tribute to my mum who, sadly, passed away on Tuesday evening.

Prediction: Stoke City 1 Leeds United 3.

MIKE GILL

What a difference a week makes! After the comprehensive dismantling of Derby and better news on the transfer market, the doom-and-gloom merchants have gone back into their boxes.

Having started as favourites to win the Championship, Stoke have found success elusive in this league. As Gary Rowett’s star has waned, Nathan Jones will be hoping for his star to wax!

Whilst not undervaluing his remarkable success at Luton, dealing with the wounded egos of ex-Premier League players is a different task entirely. After losing at Brentford on Saturday and being dumped out of the FA Cup at home on Tuesday night to Shrewsbury, he will now understand the magnitude of the task he faces. United must start this game with all guns blazing and ensure that the ‘new-manager effect’ – if it exists – is postponed for another week.

Keeping our players’ feet firmly on the ground is Marcelo Bielsa’s main task in the weeks to come and this match is a potential ‘banana skin’ worth avoiding.

Prediction: Stoke City 1 Leeds United 3.

SHAUN SMITH

I must confess; when I first got wind that it was Marcelo Bielsa who was to become the new head coach of Leeds United, I wasn’t exactly sure who he was.

I knew he was Argentinian and I had vague recollections of his success with Chile. It was only when someone who knows the game much better than I do explained the magnitude of the signing that I became excited.

Some of the comments in the national media this week display that some people who are paid to have an opinion know as much about world football as I did.

The proof of the pudding is always in the eating and it was the game against Stoke at Elland Road to kick off this season that confirmed we had something special to savour. Bielsa is a gravy of a different kind and, in truth, far too rich for the league we find ourselves playing in.

It is a coup of huge proportions – that the maestro deigned to come to the second tier of English football.

That we remain Leeds United and not Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds United, is testament to the size of our club.

I find it irksome that he will have to explain himself to senior figures of a league that permits owners of clubs like Bolton and Blackpool to do what they do and yet, paradoxically, find themselves as moral arbiters.

It is hard to speak of the actual football with the background of this week’s events but I will say this: With Bielsa, Leeds United could dominate games like we did under Don Revie and, with that in mind, I say Leeds will win.

Unauthorised scouting isn’t, in any way, a laudable thing but the football that Bielsa brings is exceptional.

Let us rejoice in it.

Prediction: Stoke City 0 Leeds United 4.