Slaven Bilic uses Chinese proverb tackling question of West Brom and Leeds United 'bottling' automatic promotion

SLAVEN Bilic has hit back at suggestions that West Brom and Leeds United might 'bottle' automatic promotion, saying of the top two's rivals - they would rather be where we are.

Friday, 26th June 2020, 4:02 pm
Updated Friday, 26th June 2020, 4:04 pm

Bilic's West Brom side and Marcelo Bielsa's Whites both squandered the opportunity to kick further clear in the Championship's automatic promotion places upon the first weekend back after the season's 15-week pause due to the coronavirus pandemic.

After third-placed Fulham slipped to a 2-0 reverse at home to fourth-placed Brentford, the Baggies were held to a goalless draw at home to Birmingham City before Leeds were defeated 2-0 at Cardiff City.

West Brom now lead the division ahead of Leeds on goal difference with the Baggies and Whites both seven points clear of third-placed Fulham who are themselves only one point ahead of fourth-placed Brentford.

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FIRED UP: West Brom boss Slaven Bilic. Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images.

This weekend will now see the top four all lock horns with Brentford hosting West Brom on Friday evening before Fulham travel to Elland Road on Saturday for a 3pm kick-off.

The picture could look very different come Saturday evening but Bilic says those teams chasing the Baggies and the Whites would most definitely rather be in their position.

“If this was the start of the season after the break and all that it would be hard to get this level of motivation,” said Bilic.

"But when you consider there’s only a few weeks left and there’s so much at stake, you are totally in a moment.

"The negative thing about being first or second is there’s an element of people wondering ‘Are Leeds and us going to bottle it?’

"That applies to Fulham and Brentford too, but they are hoping that happens.

"They would rather be in our position. It’s better to be where we are. Is it difficult? Of course it’s difficult. But there’s an old Chinese proverb which says: ‘The sun is hottest at the very top of the mountain, but also the wind is strongest.’

“You can crumble, but if you’re together that’s a big thing. I wouldn’t swap with any one of them.”

Assessing the recent progress of Brentford ahead of Friday's clash at Griffin Park, Bilic said: "Their name is a bit of a surprise, but not their team.

“They are a top team and we have big respect for them. It’s going to be a very big test and we will have to be on top of our game.

“We are not big time Charlies. We are confident but we are humble. But we are number one and for the whole season we have been number one or number two.

"That’s not because we are some kind of wild cards - it’s because week-in, week-out, we’ve done it. It’s a massive game.

“We have to just concentrate on ourselves. This game is bigger than the other one.

“It’s more than a three-point game. We are competing against our direct contenders and it will be crucial. Key thing is not to lose.”