Playoffs Loom As United Suffer Back To Back Defeats.

Leeds United endured a torrid Easter weekend which leaving their automatic promotion hopes in tatters. Whilst the fat lady may not be signing just yet, she is clearing her throat in preparation. With Sheffield United picking up maximum points and facing bottom of the table Ipswich Town next, they sit firmly in the driving seat with two games to go.

Worst Case Scenario.

Even the most pessimistic amongst us would scarcely have believed that it could have gone as badly wrong as it did. Wigan came to Elland Road having won just one of their previous games away from home this season. With United 1-0 up against ten men, things couldn’t have started much better. Sadly it was downhill rapidly from there. A 1-2 defeat against a well drilled Wigan side fighting for their Championship lives. Even with that defeat, as deflating as it undoubtedly was, there was still a glimmer of hope with nine points left to play for. Defeat away to Brentford in the fashion it came about was alarming and left fans wondering no longer about automatic promotion, rather have Leeds got enough in the tank for a playoff semi final and final?

Opposition Blueprint

Worryingly it appears that Bielsa and Leeds have been found out. Garry Monk was successful twice earlier this season. Wigan and Brentford adopting a similar strategy were equally as successful. Allow Leeds to dominate possession, defend deep, be difficult to breakdown and hit quickly on the counter. Commiting bodies forward, as United do regularly, it leaves them vulnerable as demonstrated at the weekend. Bielsa and his coaching staff have between now and the playoffs to remedy this. In scraping the barrel of positivity, perhaps blowing automatic promotion with two games to spare gives them longer to work on things and prepare mentally. Another issue to tackle will be the lack of confidence that greets every side that falls into the Playoffs as opposed to the side the just climbs into it like Derby have for now. Or for the sides that go on a run of impressive form such as Aston Villa. Leeds will need to pick themselves off the floor and quickly.

Lack Of Quality

Despite dominating possession, chances created and attempts on goal in both games, the issues have been poor delivery and wasteful finishing. Patrick Bamford will be under pressure but it would be to easy to blame him solely for the lack of goals. Creativity has been lacking, even from Pablo Hernandez in the last two games, and he has been immense all season long in that department. Tyler Roberts has been decent and poor in equal measure. Matteuz Klich hasn’t been effective for some time and Harrison has contributed sporadically. Kemar Roofe appears to be pushing for a start after recovering from injury and with Jack Clarke returning to the fold it gives Bielsa options. Leeds must start converting their chances immediately if they are to achieve their aim of promotion. What can’t be questioned is the effort, desire and mentality. United were not outplayed in either of the weekend’s defeats. To suggest that they have bottled it would be harsh.

Two Games To Go.

Automatic promotion aside, it goes without saying that a morale boosting victory at Elland Road against Aston Villa would be the most desirable outcome for everyone associated with Leeds. That will not be easy with the Villans in Imperious form themselves and will surely be one of the favourites going into the Playoffs. The fixture will signal the final game of the regular season in front of the home fans before the lottery of the Playoffs. Having suffered in recent years against the likes of Watford, Doncaster and Millwall, the prospect of going again will understandably be met with a feeling of inevitability. An almost certainty that it will not end in glory at Wembley in May. It’s hard to disagree with that notion, afterall it feels like history repeating itself in many ways. Leeds United have a penchant for putting their loyal supporters through the ringer. Time and time again, defeat has been snatched from the jaws of victory. It would be fitting if this was all to end in a blaze of glory in the playoff final. In sheer desperation and in hope rather than expectation. This season has seen incredible ups and downs and as the anthem states ‘We’re gonna stay with you forever’ whether that’s another season in the Championship or as we march on to the Premier League.

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