Stoke City manager Nathan Jones has backed Leeds United to secure promotion into the Premier League, despite Marcelo Bielsa not having any real ‘stars’ at his disposal, via quotes by Leeds Live.
Jones offered his backhanded compliment while speaking after his bet365 Stadium natives eliminated the Whites from the Carabao Cup on penalties, where strikes from Eddie Nketiah and Helder Costa overturned Stoke’s two-goal first-half advantage to send the tie to spot-kicks.
Jack Harrison missed what proved to be the crucial penalty to hand Stoke a 5-4 away win in front of the Revie Stand, having gone into the tie just four days after last playing one another, with Leeds the triumphant side in the Championship encounter.
The Whites’ win on Saturday ensured Bielsa’s men maintained their place at the top of the table above Swansea City on goal difference, while rooting Stoke to last place as one of only two sides yet to put a win on the board.
Jones has now offered his backing to Leeds to finish the season in an automatic promotion place, having missed out on moving up a division last term after a late-season crumble resulted in Play-Off Semi-Final heartbreak at home to Derby County.
“If I didn’t really love my house I’d put it on them going up in the top two,” he said. “They’re a very difficult team to play against. They’re very structured. They know what they do. They’re as good a side as there is.
“[They were] unfortunate not to go up last year. Only two good sides piped them, but I’m quite sure they’ll go up. The good thing about them is they’re a really humble group.
” I’m good friends with Luke Ayling. I’ve studied how they play and they’re a hard-working, humble group. Got good players. No real stars in this side.
“Talking of Kalvin Phillips and £25million. The boy’s a hard-worker, he’s a top professional, and I know from people I know here he’s a humble kid as well.
“I’d like to go up, but if I do, then they’d be nice to go up with.”
While the Championship is capable of throwing up a surprise result as anyone can, and often does, beat anyone, it would take a huge momentum shift for Stoke to mount a promotion chase at present.
Aston Villa proved teams are capable of going from rank outsider to becoming a Premier League side with the right run of form, having clawed their way up the table from 13th place on January 19 to win the play-offs last season – achieving the third-most points of any side in the final 19 regular-season games.
Leeds, on the other hand, know what it is like having the shoe on the other foot, having only taken 29 points from a possible 57 in the same period – the ninth-most – and slipping from a four-point lead over Sheffield United in third to end the campaign six points adrift of the automatic places.
Bielsa will be hoping to avoid a repeat this season, and doing such would show if lessons were learnt from the crumble that saw promotion slip through their fingers.
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