In a mentor vs mentee clash Saturday, Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds look to win three games in a row as they welcome Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City in the Premier League evening kick off. Pep Guardiola is one of many top-end managers that have highly praised Bielsa, with Pep calling him “the best in the world” and “top of the list”. This game marks only the fourth time Pep Guardiola will manage against his idol.
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Since returning to the Premier League following a 16-year absence, Leeds United have been a breath of fresh air, managing to score eight goals, three of which coming against current title holders Liverpool. Leeds are coming into this game off of the back of a 1-0 win at Brammall Lane vs Sheffield United. This electric start to the season is something you would expect from a Pep Guardiola side, however they have only won one of their opening two games, losing 5-2 at home to Leicester City in their last Premier League outing.
DEFENSIVE DEBUTS AND DIFFERING FORWARD FORTUNES
On Monday, one day after the defeat to Leicester, news broke that central defender Ruben Dias would be arriving at the Etihad from Benfica for over £50 million plus Nicolas Otamendi going the other way. After the capitulation at the hands of the Foxes, it will be no surprise if he makes his debut against Leeds live on Sky Sports Main Event. Pep Guardiola has now spent over £400 million on defenders in his time at the club, and he will be hoping that the newest recruit will slot straight in alongside fellow summer signing, Nathan Ake (£43 million), to keep the rampant front line of Leeds quiet.
Similar to Manchester City, Leeds United have also spent big in the transfer window on defenders. Fabian Koch has come in from SC Freiburg to replace Ben White after his loan from Brighton ended, and Diego Llorente coming in from Real Sociedad, who may make his debut against the blue side of Manchester.
The Leeds forward line lead by Patrick Bamford, will be looking to ruin the probable debut of Dias, and it would be hard to bet against the striker getting on the scoresheet making it four goals in four games. The striker has kept £30 million signing Rodrigo out of the number 9 berth so far this season, despite doubts over his abilities over the past 12 months. It is looking like Michael Cuisance will arrive from Bayern Munich for £20 million, but it is unlikely he will start. Unfortunately for Pep Guardiola and Manchester City, there is still no sign of Sergio Aguero or Gabriel Jesus in the squad this season, with Aguero set to be out until November with Jesus injured for at least one month. It appears no money will be spent in that central attacking role so we can expect Raheem Sterling to fit in again, with young Liam Delap being the understudy to the English International.
BIELSA VS PEP – WHAT WE CAN EXPECT
Whilst of course the big battle is between the players on the pitch, perhaps the most intriguing managerial clash will be the one between Marcelo Bielsa and Pep Guardiola. As previously mentioned, Pep referred to Biesla as his mentor. Guardiola is one of many managers that have the utmost respect for Guardiola. Tata Martino, who has managed Barcelona and Argentina has said that everyone who has been moulded by Bielsa should be called his “disciples”, which Mauricio Pochettino agreed with, also calling the Leeds manager his football father. Many players such as Lionel Messi, Fernando Llorente, Alexis Sanchez and even Diego Maradona have mentioned the sublime impact Marcelo Bielsa has had on their career.
Marcelo Bielsa has only won four trophies in football, but it was actually this weekend’s opposing number, Guardiola, that said it does not matter how many titles Bielsa has, despite how that is the way managers are judged. Guardiola believes “that is much less influential than how he has influenced football and his football players. That is why, for me, he is the best coach in the world.” Bielsa’s influence was felt instantly at Leeds. The Argentine arrived at Elland Road in the summer of 2018 as Leeds finished 13th, and within two seasons got the club back into the Premier League with a quick, aggressive and possession-based style of play set the league alight, much like Guardiola’s style of play.
Guardiola’s Barcelona played Bielsa’s Athletic Bilbao three times, with Barcelona winning two of them, however much like their first battle in England, it was their first meeting that garnered the most interest in a game that finished 2-2. Bielsa has always had a holding midfielder who sits back and dictates play, now Kalvin Phillips role. At Bilbao, Ander Iturraspe had this position and in the 2-2 draw he stayed back, whilst every other midfielder, fullback and forward continuously went forward every time a chance arose. As we have seen in Bielsa’s time in England, he does not change to a more defensive style no matter who Leeds line up against, and Bielsa certainly did not take this approach vs Barcelona. Bilbao constantly pressed Barcelona, much like Leeds do now, and when on the ball they played short, intricate passes until the opportunity came to get it to the big target man in Fernando Llorente. Whilst Llorente has a World Cup medal and Patrick Bamford does not have a senior cap, Marcelo Bielsa has influenced Bamford’s style and used him in the Llorente-at-Bilbao role throughout his time at Elland Road.
We can expect Bielsa to use Bamford and Phillips in the same way he used Iturraspe and Llorente to try and put City’s fragile defence to the test. The Leeds manager will be hoping to get his first win over his protégé live at 5:30pm on Saturday live on Sky Sports Main Event.
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