The Yorkshire Derby – Leeds and Sheffield United in contrasting campaigns but the battle for bragging rights remain

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With their geographical location aside, Leeds and Sheffield United have shared a fair few similarities over the years.

Two years ago, the pair were both scrapping it out for an automatic promotion place in the Championship, a contest that second-placed changed hands seven times during the run-in . One year on, the pair continued to chase similar ambitions despite playing in different divisions; for the Blades, a European qualification spot during their first season back in the top flight for 13 years; for the Whites, the second-tier league title and a return to the top flight after 16 years away. But when the two Yorkshire giants meet at Elland Road on Saturday, their respective domestic outlooks could not be any more different.

Leeds are sat comfortably in 11th place following a 2-1 win over Fulham at Craven Cottage ten days ago. Sheffield United, on the other hand, sit rock-bottom having lost their 23rd game of the campaign in convincing fashion prior to there 2-0 defeat against Chelsea in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup – a 5-0 battering by Leicester City.

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Blades supporters do not have to think far back to remember when their team were being praised as ‘the’ prime example of what newly promoted clubs should do when they make it into the big time – play without fear. However, the fractured relationship between owner Abdullah bin Musa’ad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and manager Chris Wilder, who parted ways with Brammal Lane last month, has seen their second term in the top-flight take a completely different direction to the first.

Relegation for the visitors is all but confirmed following a run of six defeats in seven games and have set the unwanted record of the worst start to a Premier League campaign (excluding administrative point deductions) in the league’s history. Now 14 points adrift of safety with just 21 points left to play for, the South Yorkshire side need to win every match from here on in to perform the greatest of great escapes.

While at Leeds, it could not be more rosier for Marcelo Bielsa and his team. Just as Wilder did for four years at the Blades, the Argentinean has had a profound influence due to being on the same page as those in the boardroom. 

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And at the weekend, chairman Andrea Radrizzani will be reminded of ‘what could of been’ when Paul Heckingbottom returns to Elland Road as Sheffield United’s caretaker boss. The former defender’ endured an abysmal four months at the helm as Leeds’ 20th manager since their relegation from the top-flight in 2004 and was ultimately the catalyst for Radrizzani to go all out for Bielsa. 


The Italian businessman will also be prompted about the dangers of second-season syndrome: the lost of momentum from promotion, the lost of impetus for big games and opponents sussing out team’s tactics. Although the danger of the infamous “Bielsa Burnout” – the long-term effect of playing such high-octane football – could always be round the corner with such a busy schedule, fans will be reassured that their manager will not settle on the same group of players like the Blades did this season and more investment will be made in the summer. 

But what does not need reminding for those in White is that a win will put them two points behind Aston Villa and a further  point behind ninth-placed Arsenal. With nine games left to play, it will give Leeds a much needed swing with a daunting run of fixtures against Manchester City, Liverpool, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur in four of their next five games.

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As for their seven previous head-to-head encounters – a surprising low number despite their close proximity -they are fairly even, with Leeds winning three and Sheffield United winning four. So a chance to edge the bragging rights on Saturday will be more than a motivation, especially now the Blades are facing their certain doom.

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