Leeds United v QPR: Why the festive period holds no fears for boss Marcelo Bielsa

CONTENT: Leeds United head coach Marcelo Bielsa.
CONTENT: Leeds United head coach Marcelo Bielsa.
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SIX GAMES in 25 days and ultimately four fixtures in 10 days over Christmas and New Year.

Ahead of Saturday’s clash with Queens Park Rangers at Elland Road, Leeds United head coach Marcelo Bielsa is fully aware his men are approaching one of the most demanding periods of the season. Not exactly the ideal time to have a host of players out injured including five in defence.

Yet Bielsa is unworried about the forthcoming demands of the festive fixture list with the respectful Argentinian insisting he would not change such a rich tradition of the English game even if he could.

Leeds are approaching the Christmas and new year schedule sat second in the Championship and only one point off top spot but with around a quarter of their squad either injured or on the comeback trail.

Skipper and centre-back Liam Cooper is facing around six weeks out having undergone surgery on a knee problem in Rome while the versatile Stuart Dallas who has been playing at right-back will be out for around six weeks with a fractured foot.

Dallas had been filling in for Luke Ayling who is close to a return but still sidelined following a knee ligament injury and also Gaetano Berardi who will not be back until at least the end of January as he recovers from a hamstring tendon rupture.

Tom Pearce is also still missing with a bruised metatarsal while Chelsea loanee goalkeeper Jamal Blackman is out for the season with a broken leg.

And while Bielsa can now finally call on attacking duo Patrick Bamford and Izzy Brown after their long lay-offs after PCL and ACL injuries, the duo likely face steady introductions back into the team.

Back four players Cooper, Ayling, Berardi, Dallas and Pearce though, remain sidelined at undoubtedly one of the most challenging periods of the season.

Bielsa’s men at least have one-week gaps between their next three fixtures with United back in action after Saturday’s hosting of QPR at Bolton Wanderers the following Saturday.

Leeds then have eight days until the eagerly-awaited clash at Aston Villa on Sunday, December 23 which begins a rapid run of fixtures with Blackburn Rovers the visitors to Elland Road on Boxing Day just three days later.

The Whites then welcome Hull City to Elland Road in three days’ later on Saturday, December 29 before travelling to Nottingham Forest on New Year’s Day.

But Bielsa is showing absolutely no signs of panic as the festive fixture schedule looms large with the art of keeping busy over Christmas he says all part of the beautiful English game.

Bielsa reasoned: “I’m not worried about it because in professional football, if you play twice a week, it’s something normal and when you play during Christmas it’s a tradition of English football. I always think we keep the traditions because they have value.

“When you keep something you could change, it means it has deep, historical roots. For me, it has a lot of value when a tradition stays.”