FOOTBALL RETURNS: Bielsa’s Leeds aiming to prove their mettle at Cardiff


Marcelo Bielsa’s table-topping Leeds could move a huge step closer to promotion with a win on their return to action at Cardiff, but face a tricky test against the play-off chasing Bluebirds.

Where they stand

Ninth place Cardiff won 2-0 at Barnsley in their last match before the coronavirus struck to move within two points of the top six. That win at Oakwell was their first win in five matches.

The Welsh side have drawn six of their last eight on home turf; the exceptions being a 2-1 win against second place West Brom and a 1-0 defeat to fifth place Nottingham Forest.

Leeds won their last five matches is a row, without conceding a goal, before the Championship was suspended.

The run moved the Whites back to the top of the table and opened up a seven-point gap on third place Fulham, with just nine matches remaining.

When these two teams met at Elland Road in December though, Cardiff produced a remarkable second half fight back to come from 3-0 down and earn a point.

Team news

The Bluebirds could be without left-back Greg Cunningham (knee), winger Nathaniel Mendez-Laing (muscle), playmaker Lee Tomlin (knee) and experienced defender Matthew Connolly (ankle), who are all doubts.

Captain and centre-half Sean Morrison will marshal the home side, whilst versatile Scotsman Callum Paterson, who can also play across midfield or at full-back, is likely to lead Cardiff’s attack.

The visitors are set to be without three first team regulars in South Wales; Pablo Hernandez isn’t set to return to training until next week, with Adam Forshaw and Jean-Kevin Augustin also still completing their returns to full fitness.

Kalvin Phillips (credit: LeedsLive)

Star holding midfielder Kalvin Phillips, rumoured to be in line for a shock England call up in March before the virus struck, is available for selection though.

Much vilified finisher Patrick Bamford is in line to start upfront, but error-prone former Real Madrid goalkeeper Kiko Casilla faces competition from the 20-year-old French stopper Illan Meslier.


Marcelo Bielsa is upbeat about his team’s readiness to return to action, despite the unusual circumstances:

“The players have done a big effort so far; they’ve worked very responsibly. Even though we have had a long period of time working on the physical preparation and after one month with tactical and technical work, it is not like a normal pre-season.

“This is not a problem for us. It is a situation everybody has to face without exception. This is the best way our authority found to try to resume the season and we are ready to go.

“The football we are going to play is not the same football as before. The more important thing is the mental adaptation of the players to the new environment.”

On playing without Leeds’ vocal support, the Argentine head coach added: “Not being able to share this last period of nine matches with the supporters, the fans, is something I never wished. The best thing in football is the fan, the spectator.

“We know public health is above the rest of the things and football is secondary if we compare with public health, but we have to say the communication between the players and the supporters makes football.”

Neil Harris (credit: Wales online)

Cardiff manager Neil Harris wants his side to gain momentum quickly as they hope to challenge for sixth place:

“We’re really looking forward to Sunday; it feels like a very long time without a game.

“But since we’ve been back in, Sunday’s fixture does now seem to be coming around quickly.

“We know we’re coming back into the business end of the season – the players and I want to hit the ground running.

“[Leeds] is a great test for us and we look forward to it. When you start fresh and look to build, you want to put down a marker.

“If we play to our capabilities and put in a performance on the day, we’ve got a chance to put down a marker for the rest of the season.”



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