Leeds United find themselves in danger of being dragged into a relegation scrap, but Marcelo Bielsa has praised the team’s unwavering support ahead of Sunday’s crucial clash with Burnley.
The Whites have not played since going down 4-1 at home to Arsenal before Christmas, with COVID-19 cases adding to an already packed injury list, meaning festive fixtures against Liverpool and Aston Villa were postponed.
They return to action at Elland Road against Burnley, who sit 18th – two places and five points below Leeds, who received plenty of vociferous support in the latter stages against Arsenal even though they were already well beaten.
“I think the support the Leeds fans have for the team is unconditional,” Bielsa explained.
“It’s not common in these times to conserve that recognition from the fans, even when the team is losing.
“Every time we have played at home, the public has always been an element that improves and pushes on the team to be in a better state and mood.
“Every game that we play from here on out is important. The ones we have played beforehand are the ones that position us where we are, and the game on Sunday is a great opportunity to redirect where the campaign is going.”
Burnley also missed plenty of football due to postponements over Christmas. They returned with a 3-1 defeat at Manchester United on Thursday.
Though the Clarets sit in the bottom three, Sean Dyche is confident Burnley will turn their form around soon.
“Historically we have been strong in the second half of the season, whatever challenge we have had,” said Dyche.
“I think there is a good belief in what we do and the players know how close they are to making things right.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Leeds United – Raphinha
Raphinha has been directly involved in 50 per cent of Leeds’ 18 Premier League goals this season (eight goals, one assist). In the competition’s history, no player has been involved in a higher share for the club over the course of a single season than the Brazilian this term (Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink also 50% in 1998-99).
Burnley – Chris Wood
Chris Wood has scored in two of his four games against former side Leeds since leaving the club in August 2017, including the Clarets’ goal earlier this campaign in the Premier League. Wood scored 24 goals in 44 games for Leeds at Elland Road in all competitions and is the still the club’s top scorer at the stadium since his debut in August 2015, coincidentally against Burnley.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– Of the 42 teams Leeds have faced at least 40 times in league matches, only against Coventry (54%) do they have a higher win rate than they do against Burnley (51% – 31 wins from 61 games).
– Burnley have lost six of their last eight away league games against Leeds (W1 D1), with their only victory at Elland Road in this run coming in September 2013 (2-1).
– Burnley have lost each of their last three away league games against sides from Yorkshire. They have not lost more consecutively in the county since a run of five between January 1996 and September 1997.
– Leeds have won their first league game in just one of the last eight calendar years (D4 L3), beating Rotherham 3-0 in 2017. The Whites lost 3-0 at Spurs in their first game of 2021 but haven’t lost consecutive such games since 2008/2009.
– Leeds have lost each of their last three Premier League games, conceding 14 goals in the process. They’ve not lost four consecutive league games since April 2015 (a run of five), while they last did so while also conceding 3+ goals each time back in December 1959.