Sunday 25 August 2019

'There are clubs better than Leeds but don't have the passion that unites' - Bielsa confident despite sales

Leeds United manager Marcelo Bielsa
Leeds United manager Marcelo Bielsa Newsdesk Newsdesk

Leeds boss Marcelo Bielsa is confident he has the squad he needs to push for promotion from the Sky Bet Championship as he looks to Sunday's season-opener away to Bristol City.

Leeds fell narrowly short of reaching the Premier League last season, dropping out of the top two places late in the season before being beaten by Derby in the first round of the play-offs.

Since then key man Pontus Jansson has left for Brentford, goalkeeper Bailey Peacock-Farrell has joined Burnley and last season's top scorer Kemar Roofe has been strongly linked with a move to Anderlecht as he enters the final year of his contract.

But Bielsa is happy with the resources available to him.

"I have a lot of confidence with the squad that I have at the moment," the Argentinian said.

"We have three players for each position. Even though there are not 33 players, we have 18 players that are good enough to play in three positions differently.

"Last season Jack Clarke and Jamie Shackleton became involved and now they are more close to being part of the team.

"I hope and I am sure, at the end of the season there will be two players more, to assume the same role that Jamie and Jack now have."

Whether or not he is about to leave the club, Roofe will miss Sunday's match due to an injury, sidelined along with Luke Ayling and Tyler Roberts.

Bielsa himself chose to stick around this summer, ignoring a break clause in his contract to take another shot at earning promotion.

"When you say Leeds United, you are talking about a big thing," he said. "When you are talking about 'Marching on Together' it's a sentence that is very clear, connecting everybody and this is something I feel.

"There are clubs better than Leeds United, but don't have the feeling that unites everyone and the passion about the club."

Bristol City's own hopes of earning promotion via the play-offs came to an end when they took only five points from their final six league games to miss out on the top six by four points.

It has been a busy summer of transfers at Ashton Gate, with Lee Johnson making eight signings, including a permanent deal for defender Tomas Kalas, who spent last season on loan from Chelsea.

However, there have been a number of exits, most notably Adam Webster and Lloyd Kelly stepping up to the Premier League with Brighton and Bournemouth respectively.

City's pre-season may have ended with a 5-0 hiding from Crystal Palace, but Johnson believes his side is ready for the season to start.

"The lads have been great in what has been a tough pre-season and I think that accumulated in what we saw last weekend," Johnson said. "That has now all gone and I expect us to be really bright against Leeds.

"I just want the players the fans to enjoy themselves and be the same as normal. It was going to be a great start to the Championship whoever we played but Leeds have a rich history and they're a very good club so it adds that bit of extra spice."

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