Stoke City romp ought to set Leeds United up for promotion as champions - David Prutton
LEEDS UNITED’S display in Thursday’s 5-0 victory against Stoke City makes you wonder whether it was the performance of champions?
We have been looking at Leeds for a very long time and looking for that ruthless streak that they showed and I think it was the performance of potential champions because of the pressure that they have handled.
We have got teams playing at all different times and West Brom boss Slaven Bilic highlighted the fact that Brentford often play first.
After Brentford and West Brom both won this week, we were looking for Leeds to deal with the pressure.
And Leeds were able to do that and I think it was genuinely a performance and a result of a team whose first aim is obviously automatic promotion but if they manage to go up as champions it would be thoroughly deserved.
Stoke came into the game having battered Barnsley 4-0 and if you look at their squad, how they are down towards the bottom of the table is ridiculous.
They have got players who can really hurt a side and it was the kind of performance and result where you saw Leeds click.
If you look at the opening salvos of Marcelo Bielsa’s time at Leeds, there were performances like that but at the most important time they didn’t manage to get over the line.
But it feels like because of how many games are left and because of how close we are to the end of the season that it’s a perfect outcome that kicks them on to be champions, even though they won’t be taking anything for granted at all.
In terms of comparing Leeds with teams in recent seasons that have gone up, I always enjoyed watching Sheffield United. They played in a way which was expansive and all-action.
The Wolves side that went up were very easy on the eye and it’s nice if you are a Leeds fan to revel in this because it gives you a couple of days where you can actually enjoy the pressure until it all kicks off again with tomorrow’s clash at Swansea.
Thursday night was definitely a moment and a match to be very proud of.
Ultimately, they are very, very close and that was just what they needed.
Seven points from United’s final four games would guarantee automatic promotion, even if Brentford and West Brom win all of their games and both of those two sides are in action today.
First of all Brentford go to Derby and I think Brentford have shown character.
They are an immensely likable football club and I don’t just say that because I have spent a fair bit of time in the area but because of the way they approach it, the players they have got and the manager that they have got in control.
There is a lot to like about them and they are handling the pressure that they are putting on themselves very well.
You look at what they did coming back from being 1-0 down against Charlton; they have got a front three that between them have got over 50 goals which is phenomenal. You could see them turning Derby over, absolutely.
As for West Brom, as much as we are talking about Leeds’ performance and dealing with the pressure, they did exactly the same.
When they have had a little wobble they have managed to pull themselves out of it and they were efficient and clinical the other evening against Derby.
You absolutely can’t discount Brentford from automatic promotion given how close they are because mathematically that gap between third and second can be overturned.
But if it becomes a case of West Brom and Leeds duking it out for the actual championship then it’s two very worthy opponents going at it and lasting the course.
Leeds go to Swansea tomorrow and Liverpool loanee Rhian Brewster is a player that Leeds have got to keep an eye on. Since arriving in January he has been hugely influential.
From manager Steve Cooper’s point of view, it’s about development but he understands he has got a young team and is working day by day to improve them.
From Leeds’ point of view you would absolutely expect them to get the points they need to take them up now.
In this position, and this isn’t tempting fate, it’s the ideal position to be in if you are hunting down automatic promotion.
It’s absolutely in your own hands, you are not waiting on other people’s results and from a Leeds fans’ point of view, how unbelievably sweet would it be for them if the Derby game proves pivotal.
If they go there and turn in a performance akin to what we saw against Stoke, then that will exorcise a few demons – especially if it gets them across the line.
Sky Bet Championship on Sky Sports, today: Derby County v Brentford, Sky Sports Football, noon.
Tomorrow: Stoke City v Birmingham City, Sky Sports Football 1.25pm.