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Marcelo Bielsa: Leeds still can’t compete with the Premier League’s ‘top six’

Mark Walker, PA
·3 min read

Marcelo Bielsa insists Leeds still have plenty of work to do in their bid to challenge the Premier League’s traditional top six.

Leeds beat champions-elect Manchester City 2-1 at the Etihad Stadium last week despite playing the second half with 10 men following the dismissal of skipper Liam Cooper.

The Whites next face Liverpool on Monday at Elland Road, but when it was suggested his side could hold their own against the top flight’s elite Bielsa did not agree.

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“We can see against the traditional top six in England that only against Arsenal were we able to play as equals,” he said.

“That was in the first half of the first game we played against them at home. The second half of that game we played with one man more.

“In the game against Man Utd we did not deserve a better result than the one we obtained. Perhaps the margin should not have been so high but they still deserved their win, the same with Tottenham.

“The two Chelsea games were very difficult for us, especially the first one. The draw against Chelsea we deserved but in a game they dominated, and we did not deserve to win it.

Stuart Dallas, left, snatched victory for Leeds at the Etihad Stadium with a late breakaway goal
Stuart Dallas, left, snatched victory for Leeds at the Etihad Stadium with a late breakaway goal (Michael Regan/PA)

“In the two games against City, at home the draw was fair and in the first half of this game they were better than us and in the second we were a man down.

“So my conclusions are not the same as yours. We haven’t been able to play as equals against the traditional top six in the Premier League.

“To anticipate when this will happen is not prudent. These types of things, more than announce them you have to demonstrate them, and up until now we haven’t managed it.”

Leeds announced themselves back on the big stage in thrilling fashion on the opening day of the season, losing out in a seven-goal thriller at Anfield against Jurgen Klopp’s champions.

Mateusz Klich lashed home Leeds' third goal in their 4-3 defeat at Anfield on the opening day of the season
Mateusz Klich lashed home Leeds’ third goal in their 4-3 defeat at Anfield on the opening day of the season (Paul Ellis/PA)

“It was a game of goals, emotional,” Bielsa said. “It was the first game and despite the defeat it left some good feelings.

“While that was at the start of the season, throughout the development of the league it forces you to renovate your efforts for every single game.”

Liverpool face a battle for a top-four finish after seeing their hopes of a successful title defence evaporate since the turn of the year.

Their Champions League campaign has also ended after their 3-1 aggregate quarter-final defeat to Real Madrid this week, but Bielsa is still a big admirer.

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“I like to see Liverpool play,” he said. “They always play in the same manner. For me, that’s big praise for a team.”

Bielsa added: “They’re a team which constantly thinks about producing good football. They don’t speculate, attack always.

“They spend a lot of time attacking and not so much defending. Like every team they have ups and downs.”