Leeds United v Reading: Marcelo Bielsa gives his verdict on the race for the Premier League
Leeds United manager Marcelo Bielsa has warned his side against complacency as he urges them to enjoy the good times and make the most of their form.
Harrogate Town 3 Braintree 1: Advertiser player ratingsBielsa admitted the Championship was proving too close to call this season as he predicted that United’s bid for promotion would rest on their ability to handle spells of poor form.
Warning against any complacency, he said he was “never sure the good moments will last” despite Leeds occupying a top-six place since the first weekend of the campaign.
Bielsa’s players will attempt to consolidate their position further at home to Reading on Tuesday night but the United head coach claimed the division was yet to properly take shape and insisted he was not assured of his side lasting the pace over 46 games.
The club have been among the front-runners since early August in a league which has seen first place change hands regularly over the course of 18 matches.
Norwich City lie two points clear after a remarkable run of six straight wins but third-placed Leeds continue to sit prominently inside the play-off zone after a 2-0 win over Bristol City on Saturday.
WATCH: Video interview with Harrogate Town's Michael Woods after Braintree winThe top seven teams in the table are currently separated by just six points. Bielsa, who is midway through his first year in English football, said: “I already knew it was going to be a difficult competition but I wasn’t expecting that so many teams would be able to fight for the first ranking. I also thought it would be easier for some teams to show they had a good level.
“I’m never sure that the good moments will last and I’m not sure that we will be able to overcome our difficult moments. How many times are we going to play well and when will we have our downs? If we think that we will always play well then we are ignoring the reality that all teams go through. Until today, all the leading teams have had ups and downs.
“The most important thing is how we arrive at the crucial moment; the condition we are in at the crucial moments which will decide the competition. The position you have in the table before the last 15 per cent of games allows you to make the more definite calls.”
Harrogate Town 3 Braintree 1: Clinical finishing sinks the IronUnited’s quality told against 10-men on Saturday as Bristol City were picked off in the final 21 minutes at Elland Road and Reading have been fighting to keep themselves out of the relegation places since the early stages of the campaign.
Paul Clement’s side have recorded just four league wins but Bielsa described them as “not fragile” and told his players to disregard the gap of 17 places and 16 points between them.
“If you have a look at the results after every game it’s very hard to say who’s at the top of the table and who’s at the bottom of the table,” Bielsa said. “You would tell that me that the best are at the top and the worst are at the bottom but when a team at the top plays a team at the bottom, there’s not much difference.
“The leading teams are not that superior to the teams at the bottom and when I analyse Reading, they are not a weak team. I’m honest when I say this. They have strong players and when I look at their performances, they are not fragile.”
Pontus Jansson will miss Tuesday night's clash with Reading with a foot injury but goalkeeper Bailey Peacock-Farrell is back available to start after a recent knee problem.
The duo both missed Saturday's win over Bristol City for which 20-year-old Will Huffer made his Whites debut in goal with fellow goalkeeper and former loanee Jamal Blackman back at parent club Chelsea having broken his leg.
Peacock-Farrell is now back available but Jansson remains sidelined with Bielsa unsure if the Swedish centre-back will be back for Saturday's clash against Sheffield United at Bramall Lane.
"Jansson won't be available and Bailey can be a starter tomorrow," said Bielsa, asked about his latest team news. Asked when Jansson would return, the head coach said: "At the beginning, he was supposed to be available for last Saturday and then tomorrow but it was not the case and that's why I would like to be cautious before saying he can play next Saturday."