Leeds United: Pressure set to be cranked up in eight-match run-in
It was very much the calm before the storm with Leeds United having a week free from the pressure of their promotion battle, but now the tension is beginning to build again as they enter the last lap of their thrilling campaign.
Will the players thrive or crack under the pressure that is bound to be cranked up now? Time will tell, but whatever the outcome the Whites have played out their most successful season at this level for almost 30 years.
In some ways there are similarities with the 1990 promotion-winning Leeds team. Then, like now, it was really a three-horse race for two places with Sheffield United one of their rivals. That campaign went right down to the wire with the Whites needing to win on the very last day to make sure they would be going up and the 2019 version could be following similar lines.
Leeds and the Blades both earned promotion back then, but this time Norwich must rank as the big favourites with the two Yorkshire clubs battling for the runners-up slot.
It all boils down to eight games in five weeks now for all the promotion contenders and the first of those this weekend for the Whites sees them at home to Millwall while Sheffield host Bristol City and Norwich go to Middlesbrough.
On the face of it, it looks like advantage Leeds with the other top three clubs up against sides fighting hard to finish in one of the play-off sports in the Sky Bet Championship.
But Leeds fans will do well not to underestimate Millwall as they take great delight in beating the big boys as their FA Cup exploits in recent years will testify. They are also dangerous as they are scrapping for their lives and go into Saturday’s game at Elland Road just one point above the relegation places.
A further note of caution is their physical style of play, which makes them well suited to tackling United’s high press attacking way of playing.
Indeed their former Leeds striker Steve Morison recently commented that the Whites’ current style “suited Millwall” and the Londoners gave Marcelo Bielsa’s team a tough game in their meeting at the Den back in September when United only escaped with a draw thanks to a late Jack Harrison goal.
It all adds up to a big test for the home side, who need to convince their supporters and their rivals that they can last the pace and that the defeat in the last game against Sheffield United will not derail their top two ambitions. A fascinating game looks in prospect with the high stakes sure to bring its share of drama as the run-in excitement starts here.