Chelsea and Leeds were separated by the vast gulf of promotion for ages, only renewing a very old rivalry this season. Of course, things could not be more different now than they were in December. Marcelo Bielsa and Frank Lampard’s rivalry can’t add fuel to this fire as one got, well, fired. And Leeds themselves don’t have the same spotlight they did earlier in the season. As these two face off again, things have changed a great deal since their last meeting.
1. The Bielsa Burnout is once again proven real
Try as they might, Leeds fans simply cannot pretend that the Bielsa Burnout is a real and time tested aspect of Bielsa’s sides. Leeds plays full throttle, minute one to minute 90, matchday one to matchday 38. While that sounds appealing, it’s bonkers and unrealistic. Fatigue is real and it is simply impossible to maintain their level of intensity throughout.
In the past, Bielsa players have gone off to international tournaments in the summer and been too tired to be of any use to their national team. More commonly, his teams tend to fall apart in the second half of the season. So much of what they do in and out of possession is based on intensity and when that starts to weaken, so to do Bielsa sides.
Leeds blew a solid lead at the top of the table and fell in the promotion playoffs in his first season. The Covid enforced break allowed his side a breather just as they were waning and they earned automatic promotion. And this season, despite objections to its existence, the burnout is happening again.
Since New Year’s, Leeds have played a total of 12 matches in all competitions. They have lost eight of those and won just four. They have not had back to back wins in seven matches. More than that, in these 12 games they have only scored 13 goals while conceding a whopping 19. They sit more or less comfortably in midtable, but that is a far cry from the plaudits and attention they received earlier in the year (while getting smacked 6-2 by Manchester United even!) when they were angling for a Europa League spot.
Leeds tends to do better against teams willing to come at them which should be a concern for Chelsea, but if Thomas Tuchel continues to rotate the Blues should have plenty of gas in the tank to outlast and crack open the burned out side.