Leeds United face Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough this evening in a fixture which promises to be an exciting encounter between two of Yorkshire’s promotion-chasing outfits.
A shock 2-1 defeat against Birmingham City last weekend brought Leeds supporters back down to earth from the footballing stratosphere after they enjoyed a thoroughly encouraging opening to the season under Marcelo Bielsa.
8 matches without defeat preceded their fixture against Gary Monk’s Birmingham side last weekend, but their unbeaten run was brought to an end with a first-half brace from Che Adams proving to be the difference between the two sides.
The result has left Leeds facing an unenviable trip to Hillsborough to face a Sheffield Wednesday side who are beginning to come into form, but recent comments from Ezgjan Alisoki suggest that, whatever the result, the Whites will not implode in the manner which they did under Thomas Christiansen’s stewardship last season.
Indeed, in an interview with the Yorkshire Evening Post, Alioski spoke about the changes which Bielsa has installed at the club both mentally and physically, and his revelations make for very encouraging reading for the Leeds supporters.
Alisoki said: “The coach gives us the mentality to think strong. The mentality before wasn’t like what we have now. It’s changed with all players.
“I’m fitter now. I lost kilos and fat that I didn’t have so much of. At the first you think it’s not so important but then you see after how much we run, what we do on the pitch, how fit we are. All of the players see a difference, not just me.”
Naturally, the importance of maintaining high levels of fitness across a 46-fixture Championship season simply cannot be overstated, and Alioski’s admission suggests that Bielsa’s training regime has effectively prepared the players for both the physical and mental battle which lies ahead.
That Alioski cited Leeds’ commanding 3-0 victory at Norwich as an indicator of the type of reaction which Bielsa seeks from his players is incredibly encouraging for supporters ahead of their clash with the Owls this evening.
“At Swansea we had some players who didn’t give a good performance. The next game at Norwich was unbelievable. Each player is focused to react.”
A notable difference between the trip to Carrow Road and the impending trip to Hillsborough worth noting is the comparative strength of Bielsa’s squad.
Kemar Roofe provided Alisoki with an assist that day and Pablo Hernandez killed the match with a third goal midway through the second-half, but both of the aforementioned attacking talents are sidelined through injury this evening.
And that’s perhaps where the limits of both Bielsa’s training regime and the mentality he has installed into this group of players are truly put to the test, so it will be interesting to see how Leeds react to their first major setback of the season.
Little reading between the lines is required when analysing Alisoki’s comments: there is clearly a deep felt admiration for the new manager during a positive period of time for the club and the changes he has made should provide the key to a successful promotion bid.
It’s always easier to lavish praise when things are going swimmingly, but the genuine admiration for Bielsa is not going away anytime soon and that can only be an extremely positive sign for Leeds as they bid to end their top-flight exile.
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