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Leeds United

Back Bielsa to take Leeds to the Premier League this time after agony of play-offs

Leeds United boss Marcelo Bielsa’s mission is clear: to shape his squad with intelligent coaching and to maximise the talent of his players as the Elland Road side bid to gain promotion to the Premier League. Remember, they agonisingly missed out last time of asking following a defeat over two legs in the play-off semi-final against Derby County. It was tough to take as free-flowing Leeds had enthralled the watching public over the previous nine months only to ultimately fail.

Bielsa’s high-pressing outfit — one of the hot favourites to secure a spot in the top-flight from the Sky Bet Championship this time — got off to the perfect start to their campaign with a 3-1 win at Bristol City on Sunday.

A sweet, sweet finish from Pablo Hernandez gave Leeds a 1-0 advantage at the interval and the Spanish marksman was on hand to supply the chance for the second strike which came courtesy of Patrick Bamford. Visiting flyer Jack Harrison made it 3-0 with a tap in from inside the box before Andreas Weimann snatched a consolation for the Ashton Gate side.

One player not involved, of course, was Kemar Roofe who has now completed his £6.5million move to Belgian side Anderlecht and he has been speaking of just how influential Bielsa has been on his career. That takes us back to the assertion in the opening of this piece that the Leeds coach now has to be as impactful in terms of shaping the players he has under his charge. And Leeds fans need not worry about the potential lack of personnel at the club with the coach said to be ready to bolster his squad with the money brought in from the sale of Roofe. One target is said to be Ryan Kent, a fringe attacker with European champions Liverpool — he would cost around £7million, it is reported.

Fleet-footed Roofe, who is aged 26, joined Leeds from Oxford United in 2016 and ended his stay at the club having made 122 appearance — and bagged 32 goals in all competitions in the process. He finished last term as the club’s leading goal scorer with 15 strikes even though he endured an injury-dogged campaign. And he credits former Argentina coach Bielsa (he bossed his national team from 1998 until 2004) with his personal development.

And he said:

“He helped me massively last season. Without his style of play and the footballing education he gave to us, I probably wouldn’t be in this position. I actually adapted to his style and I’ve changed a few things in my game that have improved. I think that it is these little things that have been able to catch the eyes of other people, like Anderlect player-coach Vincent Kompany. He likes the way I was playing last season, and he just wants me to continue and improve even more.”

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