Reading won’t have many games as tough as Leeds United away this season. Marcelo Bielsa has completely rejuvenated the Yorkshire outfit, with the Lilywhites sitting an impressive third in the Championship going into Tuesday night’s game.
Could you give us an overview of how the season’s gone so far?
Leeds were brilliant for the first few games, and although the team has drawn a few more games than you’d like to see, have still only lost three games. Leeds played some of the best football the division has seen in a long time against Derby County and Norwich City, but injuries are starting to take their toll.
What’s Marcelo Bielsa changed at Leeds since his arrival?
Everything? Last year the team seemed to have no direction and no philosophy other than ‘play like crap’ under Paul Heckingbottom, but Bielsa has changed all of that. He’s maniacal about fitness and got rid of a lot of the extra players that weren’t good enough or consistent enough to be regulars in the first team and, while the team has changed, it’s usually because of injury and not for rotations, as it’s not something he really believes in. The proof is in the results, because most of the big acquisitions, other than Barry Douglas, haven’t played very much at all.
Any fond memories of games against Reading in years gone by?
The win over Reading from December 2016. Leeds were up in the playoff spots and looked like a team that would challenge for promotion, and a good 2-0 win from a Garry Monk side that actually tried to go on the attack.
And any you’d rather forget?
The loss last season at home was forgettable, with Mo Barrow, he of five appearances while on-loan at Leeds, scoring a late winner. Interestingly enough, the penalty that Leeds were awarded (and that Pablo Hernandez missed) was the last penalty that Leeds have received. And yes, it’s obviously because the EFL and the FA hate Leeds.
Who’s your main danger man?
Kemar Roofe has been scoring goals for fun when he’s been fit, but as always, the attack goes through Pablo Hernandez. The Spaniard’s ability with the ball at his feet has been nothing short of brilliant, and even if he’s getting older, his vision and experience have provided a lot to this team.
How do you see the game going, and what will the score be?
Leeds are in good form as most of the attackers are fit. The only question is how Leeds can deal with defensive injuries: Gaetano Berardi, Luke Ayling, and Pontus Jansson are all out, meaning that academy and Finland U21 centreback Aapo Halme was drafted into service against Bristol City. It looks like he’ll be in the lineup again, although Kalvin Phillips, who has played as a central defender as part of a back three, might also make an appearance.
I’ll say a 2-0 victory, same as against Bristol City.