By Andy Jones.
Marcelo Bielsa has confirmed he will be staying at Leeds United for another year. The unorthodox Argentinian, 65, spoke during a pre-match press conference ahead of Leeds’ Premier League opener against champions Liverpool.
El Loco, as he is affectionately known, speaking via a translator, told journalists: “I will be working the next season at Leeds. Everything has been sorted and it is definite that I will be here next season.”
Music to the ears of Leeds supporters as the Yorkshire side prepare for their first Premier League game in 16 years — their last being a 1-0 defeat to Claudio Ranieri’s Chelsea.
The Man, The Myth, The Legend
A man who is revered by his peers, Bielsa has inspired many of today’s top coaches. Pep Guardiola and Mauricio Pochettino have voiced their admiration for the Argentine, a man who once, allegedly, confronted fans with a hand grenade whilst in charge of Newell Old Boys back in his hometown of Rosario.
The famous South American club was the beginning of a career that has now led El Loco to become one of football’s most charismatic and highly regarded coaches.
Impressing with the national side of Chile, he took them to the 2010 World Cup with an impressive qualifying campaign. Chile’s performances’ were built on a strong team spirit and willingness to follow tactical instructions, they went on to inspire many in South Africa before eventually losing to Brazil in the round of 16.
Following spells In France, Italy and Spain, Bielsa has gained many friends within the footballing fraternity, but not without incident or controversy. Whilst at Lazio, he resigned after just two days, citing broken promises on player recruitment as his reasons. He had also previously quit Marseille in a post-match press conference only moments after informing the club president.
His time in England has had its incidents too. Leeds were fined £200,000 after a staff member was caught spying on a Derby County training session. Bielsa went on to show how much work he and his staff put into match preparations. In what was the most bizarre of press conferences, the eccentric coach pulled out a PowerPoint presentation showing how meticulously he prepares for games, profusely denying any allegations of cheating being bandied around at the time.
The enigmatic and highly analytical Bielsa will continue at Leeds this season. After missing out narrowly on promotion back to the Premier League in his first year, the Elland Road club has finally claimed their spot in the top flight.
The high pressing, high tempo counter-attacking style imposed by Bielsa has allowed the Yorkshire club to lay all their ghosts to rest. Finally, sixteen long and troublesome years later Leeds United are about to play Premier League football again.
Old Rivals — New Style
Saturday marks the opening of the new Premier League season, and whilst the rivalry between Leeds and their Merseyside opponents is not the fiercest, they remain two giants of the English game. It’s a fixture for the romantics, the traditionalists as the white roses of Yorkshire take on the red Liver Birds of Merseyside.
In the good old days, it was Bill Shankly versus Don Revie but now it is Jürgen Klopp versus Marcelo Bielsa, two of football’s biggest characters.
Both managers play with high intensity and demand extremely high levels of fitness and discipline from their players. This weekend’s matchup will provide a fast-paced high octane game filled with attacking intent. Neither manager likes to back down and take the pragmatic approach, they know what they like and it works.
Leeds used to carry the tag “Dirty Leeds” a tag line which was born out of the heavy-handed tactics of the successful sides in the 1970s, a style which couldn’t be any further from the truth now. Bielsa has transformed Leeds into a direct and an attacking team who like to build from the back, preferring to use technical ability over physical bullying.
Players such as Kalvin Phillips, Luke Ayling, Liam Cooper and Patrick Bamford epitomise the recent resurgence under Bielsa, improving and flourishing under the former Chile and Argentina coach. Phillips impressed so much under the stewardship of Bielsa he has even caught the eye of England manager Gareth Southgate, earning his first England cap in Copenhagen earlier this week.
Anfield Looms – Preview And Team News
Liverpool claimed their first league title for 30 years back in June and the Merseyside club will want to kickstart the defence of their crown with a win over a newly promoted side. Klopp will expect nothing less from his team.
Doubts over the future of midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum may prevent the Dutch International from featuring this weekend, the player has held talks with Klopp which have been described as positive.
Captain Jordan Henderson is rated 50-50 and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Xherdan Shaqiri and new signing Konstantinos Tsimikas are all ruled out for the upcoming game against Leeds.
Mohammed Salah and Sadio Mané will look to open their goal scoring accounts after yet another successful season for the prolific duo. Both came close to winning the Golden boot last time out, and will be setting their targets on it again.
Leeds only Injury concerns are Gaetano Beradi and Adam Forshaw who are both out with long term injuries.
New signing Rodrigo is likely to start upfront having cost £26m from Valencia earlier this summer. The Spanish international scored 7 goals in 34 games last term, also netting 3 in 4 games for Spain. The former Bolton forward will hope for a goal return better than his previous spell in the Premier League when he scored one goal in 17 appearances for the Lancashire side during a loan spell over nine years ago.
Robin Koch has been brought in from Freiburg and is seen as a replacement for the outgoing Ben White, the young English talent has returned to parent club Brighton after a hugely successful loan. Koch is a German international who will likely link up with Liam Cooper at the heart of the Leeds defence.
Phillips will be instrumental if Leeds wish to get anything from their trip to Anfield. The England midfielder will need to take charge in the centre of the park if he wants to suffocate any service to Liverpool’s front three, a challenge likely to test the Premier League debutant right from the off.
Liverpool possible starting XI
Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Gomez, Van Dijk, Robertson; Fabinho, Wijnaldum, Keita; Salah, Firmino, Mane.
Leeds United possible starting XI
Meslier; Ayling, Cooper, Koch, Dallas; Phillips; Costa, Klich, Hernandez, Harrison; Rodrigo.