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It is always hard to discern what pleasure, if any, Marcelo Bielsa takes from these epic Premier League struggles that have become Leeds United’s trademark although as the Argentine peers at his toes and sifts his regrets, he must surely be aware of the quality of the spectacle.
Another Leeds game in their first season back in the top-flight in 16 years which would have justified a further 30 minutes of action as Bielsa’s newly-promoted side tried to beat Guardiola’s side on their own terms. It was just the fourth time the pair have met across the technical area as managers. Two men who share a friendship and a common ideology about the game, and this the second draw – as well as two defeats - Bielsa has secured against a rival who has always had greater resources at his disposal.
There have been newly promoted sides in the Premier League before who have overcome disadvantages to compete with the elite although none since perhaps the Newcastle United of 1993-1994 who did so in such style as Leeds. Just one detail in a splendid game, but the half-time introduction by Bielsa of the 20-year-old Ian Poveda-Ocampo, a one-time Manchester City prodigy and contemporary of Phil Foden felt like a significant moment.
It showed that he could pick up those who fall out of the great City football machine – although City would have preferred to keep Poveda-Ocampo – and turn them into something. Just as Bielsa has with so many of the promotion winning Championship side who confidently took possession from their goalkeeper Illan Meslier and passed their way out against one of the most savage presses in the European game.
Poveda-Ocampo was excellent as Leeds roared back in the second half, creating chances until another substitute Rodrigo Moreno, the club’s record signing, scored his first Premier League goal since he got one for Bolton Wanderers in 2011. The comeback was impressive given where City had Bielsa’s players in the first 20 minutes which was to say a bad place. City turned possession over in midfield and pulled them out of shape but gradually Leeds reasserted themselves and there were times in the second half when it looked like City were in trouble.
After defeat to Leicester City last weekend, Guardiola’s players have now dropped five points as they try to wrest the title back from a Liverpool team that rarely drop any. Guardiola refused to entertain questions about the title race in the aftermath, pointing out that his club have played one game fewer, although he knows that the margin for error is very slender.
“As a manager I’m satisfied with what they have done so far,” Guardiola said, “although we are still a little bit away [from their best]. Unfortunately we dropped five points. This league is tough and the opponents don’t drop many but today was a completely different game to the one against Leicester.”
There was no discussion forthcoming from Guardiola about a possible penalty for Raheem Sterling in the closing stages when he went down under a challenge from Liam Cooper, the Leeds captain. The England international scored the game’s first goal in the first half when City were dominating the home side and there were errors to be seized upon. “There are two things you can’t do in this game, “Bielsa said. “You can’t give the ball away and you can’t let them take it off you”.
When they faced one another as managers in Spain, it was Barcelona who won the big games against Bielsa’s Athletic Bilbao and this occasion was, on the face of it, an even greater mismatch. This is a Leeds side largely built from the Championship winning team against the modern City, 12 years into their Abu Dhabi state-investment project, and, by and large, having cracked the code of elite success.
It was the errors that undid Bielsa’s players at the start, a general nervousness that made the touch heavy and introduced a degree of uncertainty upon which City preyed. They were without their left-back Jack Harrison, on loan from City and ineligible. Both teams would create chances before the break but only City would take theirs.
The goal was a classic turnover of possession and then Liam Cooper unable to clear properly before Ferran Torres picked out Sterling coming off the left side. Cooper was barely back on his feet when Sterling feinted once and went past him before stroking the ball in the far corner. That was the finish that Leeds had not been able to conjure.
There was no centre-forward in the City side and 17-year-old Liam Delap was on the bench. Riyad Mahrez played as a false nine. There was a debut for the new £65 million signing Ruben Dias alongside Aymeric Laporte who was playing his first game of the season. The slickness remains but at times it was hard to detect the ruthlessness in front of goal that has made City so formidable under Guardiola.
There were chances too for Leeds, when Ezgjan Alioski, the Macedonian winger, had run past a static Kyle Walker to meet Luke Ayling’s cross and could not control its direction. Then Ayling himself seized on Benjamin Mendy’s error, cut inside on his left foot. A strong hand from Ederson denied the full-back. Patrick Bamford and Kalvin Phillips opened up City across the area on 37 minutes to create a chance that Stuart Dallas could not finish.
After half-time, Poveda-Ocampo, a London boy who is part of the English generation born in 2000, of which Foden is another, attacked City’s right-side with an assured touch on the ball and total confidence. Guardiola’s team were starting to wobble. By the end he had withdrawn Mendy in favour of Nathan Ake at left-back which seemed like acknowledgement that the Frenchman was struggling.
Rodrigo had already lashed a shot against the bar from a run deep in the left channel, before he got the equaliser from the subsequent corner. Rodrigo, on after 55 minutes for Tyler Roberts, and clearly having decided that this was to be his day seized his chance for his first Premier League goal. There was a rare mistake from Ederson, dropping Phillips’ corner and the ricochet off Mendy fell nicely for Rodrigo.
There were chances for Bamford and Sterling before the end. A great game. The story of Guardiola seeking out Bielsa for advice before launching his own coaching career is well told now. But much more interesting is how you play their preferred style of football without the best players in the game – an experiment that Bielsa is pursuing for all our benefit.
One last thought from me,,,.
It was such a good game - football at its best - that it's such a shame it was played in front of an empty stadium. Just imagine that having been played out in front of packed, raucous stands. It would have been one of the great Elland Road nights.
What a match!
That was, at times, breathless stuff. Football that you used to see in the playground - no tactics, end-to-end, counter v counter, bish, bash, bosh, make-sure-you-watch-the-highlights kind of stuff. Wow...The only shock was that in the pouring rain there were only two goals.
Neither side deserved to lose that. It was football at it's most entertaining, unrestrained best. Guardiola and Bielsa have a long chat at the final whistle, they both look pleased.
FULL-TIME Leeds 1-1 City
It's over. I'm off for a very quick lie down...
92 mins: Leeds 1-1 City
Dallas gets a yellow - going in behind on Silva on the touchline. He's a lucky boy - that should have been a red.
90 mins: Leeds 1-1 City
It's been mostly City these past 10 minutes but Leeds have been stubborn in defence and now will be hoping to hold on unlike at Anfield.
What a save! (From earlier )
87 mins: Leeds 1-1 City
There's so much action that we've only just been shown a replay of the Copper/Sterling penalty shout. All I'll say is that I've seen them given.
86 mins: Leeds 1-1 City
Did I say it was end-to-end stuff?! Bamford is one on one with Ederson and the City keeper comes from his line to make another good save. It would have been called offside.
85 mins: Leeds 1-1 City
Penalty shout - Sterling picks up the ball, it looks like a good tackle from Cooper who catches the City man with the follow through. It's checked by VAR and again it's no penalty.
84 mins: Leeds 1-1 City
Bernardo Silva has looked lively since he's come on, he cuts inside from the right and plays in Sterling who cuts inside from the left (doesn't he always?) and fires over.
83 mins: Leeds 1-1 City
Silva's once again in the box, his shot it blocked (again) the City players are appealing for a handball - it is apparently checked by VAR and they say NO! Last week that might have been given, this week play is waved on.
82 mins: Leeds 1-1 City
City just starting to flex their muscles. They work it to Silva, he gets it on to his left but curls a shot high and wide.
80 mins: Leeds 1-1 City
Sterling is in the box, he sets up De Bruyne and his shot is once again blocked by the Leeds defence. That must be at least five blocks this game from the hosts' backline.
78 mins: Leeds 1-1 City
It's been breathless and the game is in a bit of a much-needed (for me) lull...phew...
75 mins: Leeds 1-1 City
Fernandinho on for Mahrez - doubtless in a bid to restore a bit of order for City.
75 mins: Leeds 1-1 City
Davis on for Klich for Leeds....
74 mins: Leeds 1-1 City
Gary Neville says it's like an under-9s game at the moment and it's easy to see why he thinks that.
72 mins: Leeds 1-1 City
End-to-end stuff here and it's hard to keep up. Rodrigo gets in a ball from the right and Bamford forces Ederson into another good save.
Tactics have seemingly gone out the window. It's bish, bash , bosh - counter after counter and it's great to watch - awful to type about...
71 mins: Leeds 1-1 City
Sterling is away, he is one on one and has a great chance to pull the trigger. For some reason he cuts inside and gives Meslier a chance to save - it's a chance he doesn't pass up. Sterling should have done better.
70 mins: Leeds 1-1 City
Have I mentioned that it's really OPEN? It's four on four for Leeds and they somehow cannot fashion a chance. Mendy is off for Ake for City.
69 mins: Leeds 1-1 City
ANOTHER GOOD CHANCE for Leeds - Rodrigo is unmarked in the box and he head a right-wing cross goalward, but Ederson makes a fine save. This is a great match.
68 mins: Leeds 1-1 City
Cooper hits the post from a free-kick wide left. It wouldn't have counted but it looks as thought the hosts are starting to rough City up at the moment.
67 mins: Leeds 1-1 City
Mahrez works an opening, but it's on his weaker right foot and it's an ugly finish. Pep doesn't look like a happy bunny.
64 mins: Leeds 1-1 City
Leeds are on top now - Dallas gets in a shot with no City player looking to close him down. It's easily saved by Ederson. It's as open a game as I've seen this season.
62 mins: Leeds 1-1 City
What an impact from Rodrigo - he won the corner and then scored the goal. We're in for an exciting last 30 mins here.
GOOOOOAAAAALLLLLLL!! Leeds 1-1 City
Rodrigo fires into an empty net as from the corner Ederson comes doesn't claim the ball, it hits Mendy and the ball ends at the feet of the sub and he directs it into the net - well deserved.
57 mins: Leeds 0-1 City
Chance for Rodrigo - he gets it on his left and fires at goal, Ederson gets an important hand and it goes for a corner. You feel a goal is coming.
53 mins: Leeds 0-1 City
Rodrigo on for Roberts, for Leeds.
52 mins: Leeds 0-1 City
Leeds again get at the back four, Costa and Bamford work well together but cannot create the chance to shoot and it fizzles out.
49 mins: Leeds 0-1 City
Leeds looking more direct this half. The instructions to Poveda are easy to see - get the ball and get at them. You feel that if they can get the ball to Bamford quicker then they can cause problems.
They work the ball brilliantly to Poveda on the right and players are queuing up in the box but the 20-year-old hits it long and over the bar.
47 mins: Leeds 0-1 City
Just the start - minus a goal - that Bielsa would have wanted to see. It's clear Leeds have guts and are still well in this match.
46 mins: Leeds 0-1 City
Poveda is sharp from the off, he beats Mendy on the right flank and powers in a low cross at Bamford, Dias does well to get in ahead of the Leeds striker and it goes for a corner.
45 mins: Leeds 0-1 City
Poveda - who looked good when he came on against Sheffield United last week - is on for Alioski for Leeds. The 20-year-old was signed from City...
HALF-TIME: Leeds 0-1 City
That was the last action of the first 45 minutes and both managers will be happy. Guardiola's side are well worth their advantage and could have scored more than the solitary goal. But having weathered the initial onslaught Leeds have slowly come more and more into the match and could have easily equalised with that Ayling chance just before the whistle.
45 mins: Leeds 0-1 City
What. A. Chance. Mendy is daydreaming on the ball and Ayling dispossess the left-back - he gets in the box and gets in a left-foot shot which Ederson saves well. Will the hosts rue that missed chance?
42 mins: Leeds 0-1 City
Bamford turns on the right and works in a cross, Costa gets in a shot-cum-shot that is deflected for a corner. They're offiside from the set-piece and the attack fizzles out.
39 mins: Leeds 0-1 City
Sometimes stats are for prats - but for the past 25 minutes Leeds have had 65 per cent of the ball. They are growing in confidence as the game goes on and looking better with each attack - they just need to fashion a clearcut chance.
36 mins: Leeds 0-1 City
City on the counter, De Bruyne plays in Sterling, he runs in on goal, he neither shots nor passes and Leeds deal with the threat. That was a good chance wasted by the England man. It's a very open game now.
35 mins: Leeds 0-1 City
Leeds have had 2 attempt to City's 11 - but they have another when Bamford and Robert shift the ball left, Dallas comes in and drives at goal, Ederson does well to smother the ball. Signs of optimism for Leeds when they can get at the City defence.
33 mins: Leeds 0-1 City
Both managers are very animated and both outside their technical areas - you just cannot contain that level of intensity...
29 mins: Leeds 0-1 City
Game is quite open at the moment - as we expected.
26 mins: Leeds 0-1 City
Hosts slowly coming into the match now - after the first 15 minutes - which can only be described as an onslaught - Leeds have had 52 per cent possession the past ten minutes.
Costa and Ayling link up down the right and the right-back gets in a low cross which Ederson does well to intercept. Pep is now looking animated...
22 mins: Leeds 0-1 City
More like it from Leeds. Klich and Costa link up well on the edge of the box and play in Bamford who takes one touch before firing over the bar.
19 mins: Leeds 0-1 City
It's all City - from a corner Laporte heads just over, he should have don better . The very next attack Sterling plays in Foden and the midfielder shoot wide. Leeds look a bit lost at the moment and need to get some foothold in the game.
GOAAALLLLLL!! Leeds 0-1 City
It's been coming. City have been very good so far. They find Sterling wide on the left, he jinks inside, the Leeds backline can't get close to him and he shoots low into the right corner. Good goal and deserved.
15 mins: Leeds 0-0 City
Another block - Sterling turns Ayling inside out and crosses, the ball finds itself at the feet of Torres who blasts the ball at goal. Dallas gets his body in the way to stop an almost certain goal.
Close for De Bruyne
14 mins: Leeds 0-0 City
Chance for Leeds! Ayling is forward and whips in a good ball to the back post Alioski gets in front of his man but heads over. That was a really good chance for the hosts.
11 mins: Leeds 0-0 City
Good early signs for City - though that was the case against Leicester...
9 mins: Leeds 0-0 City
Still lashing it down and the ball is zipping across the wet turf - City have had 72 per cent possession so far. I thought it would be more than that, but I trust the number crunchers...
Great block by Koch from a De Bruyne shot. From the resulting corner Dias heads wide - he should have got that on target.
5 mins: Leeds 0-0 City
All the early play is from City, Leeds yet to see much of the ball.
3 mins: Leeds 0-0 City
It's raining proverbial cats and dogs in Leeds - similar to the 2-2 draw between Barca and Bilbao in 2011 - but that doesn't put off De Bruyne who hits the post with a free-kick from the left, he tried to catch Meslier out and he does just that. On target, that was in.,
2 mins: Leeds 0-0 City
Hands up who's looking forward to this one? Meeeeeeeeee....(That's me trying to get across how excited I am...)
Walker shoots from 30 yards and it's deflected for the first corner of the match. Leeds deal with the threat and it goes for a throw and the attack peters out.
1 min: Leeds 0-0 City
It's LIVE and it's underway at Elland Road.
Possible headaches on the way?
Yes, this is a meeting of similar footballing minds, yes, it's a meeting of two of the most attractive sides of the past decade, and yes, it promises to be an attacking, entertaining watch. BUT most of all it's the meeting of the two MOST INTENSE coaches in world football. I hope they both have some paracetamol to hand because more than anything this promises to be the most INTENSE match in the history of the Premier League.
You get the feeling Pep is looking forward to this…
“All teams from Marcelo are so intense. The four times I have played against his teams it has always been tough - this will be no different.”
On whether he sees a lot of his game in Guardiola’s…
“I don’t see in his playing style any ideas that he’s taken from my playing style.”
On whether this is good time to face City…
“I have the sensation that it is not a good time to face City, when they face adversity they play better.”
...made a lot about the lack of an out and out striker against Leicester - Aguero and Jesus are both out injured - and while they had a lot of possession they didn't actually create much - six chances all game. Today Sterling is up front. He needs a good game, the England man is yet to hit the heights we all know he cane, so far this season.
For Leeds Ezgjan Alioski comes in for Jack Harrison, on loan from City.
A reminder of the starting XIs
LEEDS UNITED: Meslier, Ayling, Koch, Cooper, Phillips, Helder Costa, Klich, Dallas, Alioski, Bamford, Roberts; Subs: Poveda-Ocampo, Llorente, Rodrigo, Struijk, Davis, Caprile, Shackleton.
MAN CITY: Ederson, Walker, Dias, Laporte, Mendy, Rodri, Mahrez, De Bruyne, Foden, Torres, Sterling; Subs: Stones, Ake, Steffen, Bernardo Silva, Fernandinho, Delap, Palmer.
A Leeds fan is hopeful
Not just any Leeds fan but our own Rob Bagchi, a Leeds fan who has endured his fair share of heartache these past 17 years.
“As a Leeds fan I'm always pessimistic but the way we've played this past two years, we ought to cause them some problems and I would back us to score. If they're clinical in front of goal and harness both De Bruyne's brilliance and Sterling's pace, I think they'll win. They should win if they play like they did in the first half against Wolves. But it's not Bielsa's way not to have a go. We won't be cagey at all and won't play them on the counter. We always try to attack. Like it has been so far since 2018, it's a seat-of-the-pants ride whenever we play under him.”
Dias out to save CIty defence
So City new boy Ruben Dias starts at the back alongside Aymeric Laporte in a new look and much-needed defensive duo. Guardiola needs the player he bought for £65 million from Benfica to do well and help shore up a backline that was all at sea against Leicester. The sight of the returning Laporte only adds to the hope that City will be more solid than during last Sunday’s 5-2 defeat.
City name their team
Guardiola on Bielsa, Bielsa on Guardiola
Here's a good read on Guardiola's admiration for Marcelo Bielsa by Luke Edwards. It has the feel of one of those interviews after the meal on First Dates...
Manchester City have arrived at Elland Road. Great news considering if they hadn't there wouldn't be a match going ahead. Phew...
Leeds name their line-up
Master vs apprentice
Usually when Manchester City face a promoted club the match after a humbling 5-2 home defeat to Leicester all the focus would be on how “CITY MUST WIN” and “CAN CITY GET BACK ON TRACK?”. Don’t get me wrong those are both strong themes coming into this match. But the one that has got everyone’s attention and dominates the narrative is the one that has Pep Guardiola facing Marcelo Bielsa - the apprentice vs the master.
The City coach’s admiration for the Leeds boss is well known - the high pressing, energetic attacking game Guardiola has all his teams play was born in the brain of his Argentine crush.
They haven’t faced each other since the 2012 Copa del Rey final - a 3-0 win for Pep’s Barcelona over Bielsa’s Athletic Bilbao. That as much as anything has so many licking their lips in anticipation of today’s clash.
No one is looking forward to the match more than Guardiola, who was gushing in his praise of Bielsa ahead of kick-off.
“I think he is probably the person I admire the most in world football,” said Guardiola, who first met Bielsa at his ranch in Argentina 14 years ago, an introduction over a BBQ that turned into a 10-hour seminar on football, management and coaching.
“I admire him as a manager and as a person. I think he is the most authentic manager, all the time, in terms of how he conducts his teams, like he is unique.
“Nobody can imitate him, it's impossible, especially his behaviour as a person off the pitch and related to the media ... I was fortunate sometimes: I don't see him quite as much, I don't see him every week, but when I get the pleasure to spend time with him, it's always inspirational for me.”
So on top of what is set up to be an entertaining, attacking match we will also be able to have a sneak peek at a very public love-in.
That aside, however, City do come into the match on the back of that horror show against Leicester when their backline was exposed as being more brittle than even their biggest detractors claimed. Guardiola will know that Leeds will be only too happy to test his defence, in the way they tested Liverpool’s during their 4-3 defeat at Anfield a few weeks back. Leeds have started life back in the Premier League with two wins from three and holding true to the attacking principles so beautifully instilled in them by their coach.
It promises to be a cracking match. Stay here for all the team news and pre-match analysis.