A confident Mateusz Klich upped the ante ahead of Saturday’s derby with Sheffield United by insisting Leeds United had been the best team in the Championship this season.
Klich responded to compliments from Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder, who ranked Leeds as the most impressive side over 37 games so far, by agreeing with that assessment and saying he was confident of striking a major blow in the promotion race.
A sold-out Elland Road will host Leeds’ biggest Yorkshire derby in years this weekend, a fixture which has the potential to dramatically alter the picture at the top of the division.
Leeds in second with a two-point advantage over Sheffield United, the most serious threat to their automatic promotion place, and midfielder Klich said the match was “one of the most important” he had been involved in.
VIctory would give Leeds a five-point cushion with eight matches to play.
Wilder talked up the Elland Road club and head coach Marcelo Bielsa today, saying: “We’re up against arguably the best team in the division for the past eight months. Whether that can continue for another month is to be seen.”
Asked if Wilder was right, Klich said: “Yeah, I believe that. I agree. But there’s still nine games to go. If the season ended now it would be nice but it doesn’t.
“We need to keep fighting because the last nine games are the most important. The previous 37 don’t matter any more.
“This is going to be the one of the most important games for me and for everyone else in the dressing room I guess. Everyone knows how important it is. We won there 1-0 (at Bramall Lane in December) so definitely they’re going to come here and try to win. But I think we’re ready.”
Sheffield United’s visit is the third major promotion fixture Elland Road has staged in less than two months, following on from a 3-1 loss to league leaders Norwich City and a 4-0 thrashing of West Bromwich Albion. The victory over West Brom was inspired by a Pablo Hernandez goal after just 16 seconds.
Leeds warmed up for the Blades’ visit with a perfect away performance at Reading in midweek, scoring three times in the first half to make light work of a trip to the Madejski Stadium.
Klich said: “I would love to have that half-time in every game. You know that when we scored the first goal we win every game but I think the first goal in the Championship is massive for everyone. It makes it easier to play.
“It would be nice to score the first goal against Sheffield United, maybe not as quick as West Brom, but I’d take the win in the end because that’s what matters.
“I know it’s a derby but for us we need to play like every other game. If you have too much emotion then it’s not good. We know what to do and probably Sheffield United know what to do as well. I’m expecting a very open game, and a win.”