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Match Preview: Brighton vs Leeds United

Reflecting on a fractured second half against Tottenham, a familiar feeling to that Nottingham Forest loss in 2020, and everything to expect versus Brighton

Tottenham Hotspur v Leeds United - Premier League
Leeds manager, Marcelo Bielsa, characteristically pondered his side’s performance post-Spurs. A step in the right direction.
Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images

Another turbulent weekend for the Whites leaves Marcelo Bielsa’s side back to sitting just one place above the relegation zone following a disappointing 2-1 defeat to Tottenham Hotspur in North London on Sunday evening. Following the last Premier League game (a draw at home to Leicester City before the international break), Leeds kicked off at the imposing Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in high spirits.

The Whites dominated the home side with a number of promising efforts before Dan James netted his first goal for the club from close range, inciting an echoing chorus of boos at halftime towards Antonio Conte’s side in what marked an eventful first home match in charge for the Italian. But the game’s narrative quickly reversed.

In typical fashion, the clash fell into the ‘game of two halves’ cliche as Spurs hit the woodwork twice in seven minutes before the inevitable goals transpired. Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg equalised, and then Sergio Reguilon tapped in a rebound to give Conte a needed first win, and a big missed opportunity for Marcelo Bielsa and Leeds United.

Following what was a juxtaposed performance, devoted Leeds midfielder and England international, Kalvin Phillips, spoke to the media in an interview that was at times reminiscent of Luke Ayling’s notably defeated interview following the 2-0 loss to Nottingham Forest in Leeds’ promotion season from the Championship last year.

That game arrived during a time where cracks were beginning to show in the White’s promotion bid, to which goals from Sammy Ameobi and Tyler Walker stole the three points and left Bielsa’s team evidently crushed. In hindsight, the loss only emphasised how much the players truly cared, after a devastated Luke Ayling attempted to justify what had just happened during a difficult post-match interview.

Yet, that game became the catalyst of a Bielsa renaissance to drive this wilful Leeds squad to go on and gain the promotion they deserved - as they did well. But Phillips’ post-Spurs interview resurrected a similar downbeat mood as he felt Leeds lacked concentration at times and failed to implement effective time management in a game they felt they could honestly compete in before the match, but eventually fell short.

Though the Premier League season is notoriously relentless, and Leeds know that they can’t afford to wallow in defeat. Tomorrow evening, Bielsa’s resilient squad travel to the south coast to take on a Brighton side that find themselves without a league win in eight games, and have slipped down the table to where they are now six points adrift of their visitors. For Leeds, the clash is a chance to amend a historically poor record against the seaside club on the back of just two wins in the last fifteen, but more importantly, the game is about gaining some momentum and aiming to close the points gap to just three. A much-needed win could potentially move Leeds up three places to fourteenth in the table (depending on the other results) whilst Graham Potter’s Brighton side could reclaim a Europa League place if they come out victorious. Last season, the Whites succumbed to a 1-0 loss at Elland Road and a 2-0 loss at the AMEX, failing to score in either game. Yet this season Leeds are better equipped.

Nineteen-year-old striker Joe Gelhardt will be hoping to maintain his place in the starting eleven following a first start for the club against Tottenham Hotspur, whilst Leeds will be massively boosted by the return of key quartet: Raphinha, Rodrigo, Patrick Bamford and Robin Koch to training earlier this week following recent injuries, meanwhile Dan James will hope his first goal for the club can commence further goal involvements to come.

But regardless of historical records and personnel, Marcelo Bielsa will always remain defiant in what he believes in. Frequent counter-attacks, dynamic man-marking, confidently playing out from the back, fast and direct offensive play, highly intense pressing and maximum commitment have become the core foundations to how Leeds United play. As long as Leeds are managed under Bielsa that won’t ever change - and why should it? The Argentine’s unconventional footballing philosophy has brought the entertainment factor to Elland Road when it was so dearly lacking and has brought him monumental affection from the Leeds faithful in turn.

Bielsa’s commendable self-belief, backed by his ardent Leeds squad, achieved the unfeasible task of achieving promotion back to the Premier League before doing it all over again so impressively in their first season back. And now, as questions once again begin to arise, this determined Leeds squad will march on and go again, ready to fight and defy those that repeatedly doubt them starting with Brighton on Saturday. It’s the Leeds way and it’s genuinely just the way we like it.