Marcelo Bielsa is a very experienced managed but the 63-year-old is always learning. He certainly had a steep learning curve during his first season in English football. At times, his methods had Leeds playing some of the most scintillating football the division has ever seen but it has come at a cost.
The Leeds players have looked very leggy at times towards the end of the season. As their physical levels have dropped, so Leeds’ results have tailed off just when they needed one last kick to get them over the line in the race for automatic promotion.
Leeds finished the season 15 points clear of Derby but the two teams are now on equal footing. In fact, Derby will believe they have a chance of putting one foot in the playoff final by making the most of their home advantage by winning the first leg early on Saturday evening.
How Much Fight Do Leeds Have Left?
Leeds were available at odds on across the board to win automatic promotion just a few short weeks ago. That was the case even after they lost at home to Sheffield United as they had time to rectify their position but poor result after poor result saw their fate sealed before the last day of the season.
Rather than heading into the playoffs on the back of some morale boosting form, Leeds approach Saturday’s match with just one point to show from their last four matches. Those fans who had their fears about another damaging collapse confirmed have seen nothing in the last few weeks to give them hope about the playoffs.
Derby’s position in the playoffs was in doubt as recently as the second half of their final match against West Brom but by confirming sixth place with a 3-1 win, Frank Lampard’s men have momentum behind them which can be so crucial in the playoffs.
This is the biggest test of character that many of these Leeds players have faced in their careers. Bielsa would love his team to put their recent problems behind them with a swashbuckling win but deep down he knows how important it is to at least keep the tie alive before the second leg at Elland Road next week.
By making over 2.5 goals odds on, the bookies have shown that they believe this will be a tight first leg. That’s an assessment it could pay to agree with. The early exchanges are sure to be tense so consider a bet on the 0-0 first half correct score at 6/4 with Betway.
Given what’s on the line, it’s tough to imagine that the whole match will pass without a goal being scored so another solid betting option is on the second half having more goals than the first at 6/5 with Paddy Power.
Derby’s Blend of Youth and Experience Can Give Them the Edge
It’s fair to say that Frank Lampard may struggle to spring a tactical surprise over Marcelo Bielsa. The two managers clashed earlier in the season when Bielsa sent a spy to watch Derby’s training session before revealing the extensive scouting work he and his team undertaken before every match.
Lampard will have to rely on his players executing his tactics to the best of their ability and in that regard he’ll need to lean heavily on his most experienced campaigners. Richard Keogh and Bradley Johnson will be particularly key but it’s younger stars such as Harry Wilson, Mason Mount and Fikayo Tomori who could make the difference.
Wison has been one of Derby’s best players this season. The 22-year-old is desperate to make enough of an impression at Pride Park to force his way into the Liverpool first team and may send out another message to Jurgen Klopp by scoring the first goal on Saturday at 8/1 with bet365.
0-0 first half correct score at 6/4 with Betway
Second half to have more goals than the first at 6/5 with Paddy Power
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