Marcelo Bielsa

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Championship Focus: Promotion favorites West Brom, Fulham drop points; Leeds earn vital win

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Despite major activity on Saturday, little change took place at the top of the Championship table, with only second-place Leeds United managing to earn three points out of all the top-seven sides.

Luke Ayling’s goal in the 16th minute was the lone goal in Leeds’ one-sided match against Bristol City.

Leaders West Brom, who are now only hold a four-point lead on Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds, gave up a leveling stoppage-time goal to fifth-place Nottingham Forest at the Hawthorns.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Matty Cash’s injury-time strike, snaps the Baggies three-match winning streak and hands them their 12th draw of the season.

No other performance caught eyes as much as bottom-dwellers Barnsley’s 3-0 thumping of third-place Fulham. It’s Fulham’s first 3-0 loss since mid-November – a 3-0 defeat to Hull City.

Barnsley midfield orchestrator Cauley Woodrow bagged a brace, while Jacob Brown added his own six minutes into the second half as the last place side earned just their sixth win of the season.

Saturday’s results

West Brom 2-2 Nottingham Forest
Leeds United 1-0 Bristol City
Cardiff City 2-2 Wigan Athletic
Birmingham 1-1 Brentford
Derby County 1-1 Huddersfield
Sheffield Wednesday 0-3 Reading
Birmingham 1-1 Brentford
Derby County 1-1 Huddersfield
Sheffield Wednesday 0-3 Reading
Charlton 0-2 Blackburn
Fulham 0-3 Barnsley
Preston 0-1 Millwall
Middlesbrough 0-1 Luton Town
QPR 4-2 Stoke City

FA Cup Preview: Arsenal v. Leeds United

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Mikael Arteta and Marcelo Bielsa will square off for the first time as Arsenal host Leeds United at Emirates Stadium on Monday in the third round of the FA Cup.

 [ LIVE: Follow all the FA Cup scores here ]

The Spaniard and the Gunners kicked off 2020 in grand fashion, edging Manchester United 2-0, but their debut in this year’s FA Cup doesn’t project to be a walk in the park. Leeds are currently the Championship’s top-of-the-table side, with only four losses to their name.

That said, there is a significant chance Bielsa – the man who Arteta’s teacher, Pep Guardiola, has referred to as the “best manager in the world” – will not focus on the tournament, and instead will double down on promotion. 


Injuries/suspensions

Arsenal: OUT — Calum Chambers, Kieran Tierney QUESTIONABLE — Dani Ceballos, Hector Bellerin, Gabriel Martinelli

Leeds: OUT — Pablo Hernandez, Adam Forshaw  QUESTIONABLE — Jamie Shackleton


Probable lineups

Arsenal: Martinez; Maitland-Niles, Mustafi, Holding, Saka; Willock, Guendouzi; Pepe, Ceballos, Nelson; Aubameyang​

Leeds: Meslier; Ayling, White, Cooper, Alioski; Phillips; Helder Costa, Gotts, Klich, Harrison; Bamford


What they’re saying

Arteta on Bielsa: “When you talk to players that had him as a coach, the words that they have for him are always positive.” 

Bielsa on the importance of playing against Arsenal: “Of course it is a big challenge for us. It is enough to see the players and the prestige and level they have. When people think that we are the favorite in one match, we don’t consider things like that, neither with the opposite, which is in this case. Every time we compete we trust in our resources and respect our opponent’s resources.We will always do this with the wish to impose our style and we will try to do this on Monday.”


Prediction

Arsenal will go for blood from the start and probably until the end, while Leeds day dreams about promotion. Arsenal, 3-1.

Leeds, Bielsa win Fair Play honor at FIFA’s The Best awards

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Well this is peak FIFA.

Football’s governing body has just awarded Leeds United and much-admired manager Marcelo Bielsa its FIFA Fair Play award at its 2019 The Best awards ceremony in Milan.

[ MORE: Klopp wins manager award ]

The reason the Whites won the award is understandable, if you just ignore the fact that they were publicly caught cheating months earlier… and that the “fair play” moment came after an extremely questionable play which led to a brawl.

The win comes for Bielsa’s decision in late April, when his player Mateusz Klich scored a goal despite Aston Villa’s Jonathan Kodija being injured on the pitch.

Bielsa instructed his players to allow Villa to tie the match after a post-goal fight saw a red card to Anwar El Ghazi.

Fair play? Sure, and Leeds kissed goodbye its slim hopes of finishing in automatic promotion place in the Championship.

However, Leeds was also caught monitoring Derby County training sessions, leading to Bielsa to admit in January that he had spied “all the rivals” that season.

I mean, who were the other nominees? Jose Callejon and the Turkish player who fouled players with a sharp object during play?

Bielsa admitted this during an extraordinary Powerpoint session for media members in England which showed the maniacal depths of his preparation, which curried a lot of favor with the media and fans.

Yes, even though he admitted Leeds cheated the whole season.

He also said, “I thought I wasn’t violating the norm,” which is ridiculous.

Now of course we should be too pious, either; A whole lot of teams cheat in this way and football is a cutthroat game. Bielsa is a managerial legend and loved by Pep Guardiola, Mauricio Pochettino, and Jorge Sampaoli.

Leeds exercises Bielsa’s second-year option

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Marcelo Bielsa will start a second season with the same club for the first time since 2015.

Hopefully this one lasts more than one match.

Leeds United is exercising its option year in Bielsa’s contract, the Championship club revealed Tuesday following a season spent largely in the automatic promotion places before dipping into the playoff race and bowing out of the competition.

[ MORE: Spanish police investigate La Liga match fixing ]

Leeds had a fantastic run for most of the season, with the meticulous and creative Bielsa getting a lot of the credit.

Leeds spent the entire season in the Top Four, but a six-point advantage over third place dwindled, Bielsa’s staff was caught spying on Derby County, and Leeds finished the season in third.

Bielsa is a detail-oriented manager who is admired by some of the giants of the game, including Pep Guardiola of Manchester City.

He’s also had a combustible time in his last few settings, including leaving Marseille after one game of his sophomore campaign and skipping out on Lazio before coaching a match. He also spent a half-season at Lille before being suspended and ultimately fired.

Bielsa tells Leeds to let Aston Villa score in wild situation (video)

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Marcelo Bielsa told his Leeds United players to let Aston Villa score in their 1-1 draw at Elland Road on Sunday.

And it cost them their slim chances of automatic promotion to the Premier League.

With Villa’s Jonathan Kodjia down injured, Leeds went 1-0 up and then a mass brawl broke out which saw Anwar El Ghazi sent off but replays showed he didn’t touch Patrick Bamford who held his face.

Due to poor sportsmanship, Bielsa then instructed his players to allow Villa to score from the kick off, which didn’t go down well as a win for Leeds would have kept their hopes of being promoted automatically alive. Albert Adomah scored to make it 1-1, and that’s how the game finished.

The draw meant that Sheffield United were promoted to the Premier League, but Leeds’ chances of overtaking the Blades to finish in one of the automatic promotions spots were pretty slim anyway given their vastly inferior goal difference.

Maybe this is Bielsa’s way of making up for Spygate…

So what happened? Here’s the wild passage of play: