What Jesse Marsch said about Marcelo Bielsa's 'over-trained' Leeds United as pair set for Copa America clash

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Two of Leeds United’s recent former managers will go head-to-head this weekend.

Jesse Marsch will come up against the man he replaced at Leeds United this weekend when Canada face Marcelo Bielsa’s Uruguay in the Copa America third-place play-off.

Uruguay were denied a place in the final overnight after losing 1-0 to Colombia in Charlotte, while Canada’s 2-0 defeat against Argentina ended hope of a final place for Marsch in his first job since leaving Leeds in February 2023. Plenty in West Yorkshire had been keeping a close eye on action across the Atlantic in anticipation of an intriguing meeting and despite both failing to reach the final, they will face off for third place in the early hours of Sunday morning.

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Leeds fans will be particularly keen to see how the meeting plays out, with Marsch replacing Bielsa as Leeds manager back in 2022. The latter earned icon status at Elland Road after guiding the Whites to promotion from the Championship with an exciting brand of football, but his methods were called into question by Marsch following the change of power.

Bielsa is known for his demanding nature and ‘murder-ball’ sessions were common at Thorp Arch, with Leeds players often boasting the best running stats whether in the Championship or Premier League. But Marsch inherited a squad plagued by injuries to key players and suggested his predecessor was partly to blame at the time.

“I could see from just watching games from afar, and talking to people within the club, that the stress levels were incredibly high,” Marsch told talkSPORT after taking 10 points from his first six games in charge. “The first days, I just spoke about staying calm. We had 12 games to go, that’s almost a third of a season, there’s a lot to play for, a lot of opportunities for us to do what we need to do to control our destiny. 

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“The injury issue, for me, had a lot to do with the training methodology. These players were over-trained and it led to them being physically, mentally, emotionally and psychologically in a difficult place to recover from week to week, game to game. I have a very specific methodology with the way I work and I’ve had a reputation for high running data, but also having healthy, fit, strong players - who can meet the standards of the game we want.

“You could see it in their faces. You could see in the 15th minute that some of them were already at the max - and that shouldn’t be the case. I know there were a lot of games and guys had to play over and over again because of injuries. I find that in this sport, you have to have a fit team, but the more your best players are healthy and able to perform at a high level, that’s how you create success.

“The other part is just the playing style. Marcelo had such a strong man-v-man playing style. And trying to rip the players away from three-and-a-half years of being instructed to do exactly that, transitioning into what we’re trying to do, has been massively challenging for the players to adapt to.  They’ve worked really hard at it, but they still fall into bad habits, especially when they’re fatigued on the pitch. It’s normal.”

Bielsa’s methods have proven incredibly successful once again with Uruguay, who were expected to reach the Copa America final before Thursday’s semi-final defeat. The 68-year-old has overseen an incredible uptick in form since taking over in May 2023, recording historic wins over both Brazil and world champions Argentina - his home nation.

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Marsch had been out of work for over a year after leaving Leeds, eventually taking charge of Canada in May of this year after missing out on the USA job to Gregg Berhalter - who has since been sacked. Their run to the Copa America semi-finals has been somewhat surprising and it will be interesting to see how he fares against Bielsa and Uruguay.