Ipswich game has entered must win territory

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    Fourth place in the table, sitting just two points behind the league leaders after 13 games is by no means cause for concern. If anything it is a superb return with just two defeats during this early season run. 

    On the other hand, a tally of 10 points from a possible 24 over the last eight games is slightly more concerning in contrast to the 13 points accumulated from a possible 15 from the first five league games. 

    Marcelo Bielsa understands the nature of the league means inevitable peaks and troughs will unfold. The way in which no single team has pulled away underlines what the Championship is largely all about. Tightly contested with all the teams seeming to contain one another. 

    BLACKBURN, ENGLAND – OCTOBER 20: Blackburn Rovers’ Danny Graham scores his side’s first goal during the Sky Bet Championship match between Blackburn Rovers and Leeds United at Ewood Park on October 20, 2018 in Blackburn, England. (Photo by Rachel Holborn – CameraSport via Getty Images )

    There are worse times of the season to drop off form, that’s for sure, and if Leeds were to pick up again (starting with the midweek home match with bottom-placed Ipswich), then they would be looking at a potential return to the automatic positions. It can change quickly in this division. 

    With Leeds United, a looming question is whether the players can handle the huge pressure throughout the course of the season, given all the focus on the club’s potential for an eventual return to the top division. With Marcelo Bielsa at the helm, expectations and media spotlight have built up to another level of intensity.

    Not only will the intensity of the manager’s tough training regimes test the players physically, they will also have to be mentally tough to earn the right to be promoted.

    Darren Huckerby, a man well placed to comment on the pressure of playing in front of demanding Elland Road crowds (he played 40 times for the club, scoring just twice), told BBC Radio Norfolk this weekend: “The problem with Leeds fans is after their start to the season, they think they will win the league by 30 points. 

    “And now it’s turned a little bit, I can’t imagine the Leeds fans going ‘keep it up boys, it’ll be ok’, they’ll turn on them a little bit.” 

    11 Sep 1999: Darren Huckerby of Leeds United slips the ball past Magnus Hedman in the Coventry City goal to score during the FA Carling Premiership match at Highfield Road in Coventry, England. Leeds won 4-3. \ Mandatory Credit: Mike Hewitt /Allsport

    Perhaps Huckerby is speaking as someone who never earnt the full respect of the Leeds faithful during his disappointing spell in West Yorkshire during 1999-2000. However, he does have a point in the sense that Leeds is a club steeped in history with a strong, passionate fan-base desperate to finally return to the Premier League. As a result, frustrations can spill out at times if it does not go according to plan. 

    In contrast, the likes of Wigan and Blackburn can almost slip under the radar and play without any fear or sense of pressure/expectation. 

    This is why Leeds’ game against Ipswich at Elland Road on Wednesday is so vital to restore some confidence. It will also be a chance to re-integrate the likes of Pablo Hernandez and Kemar Roofe back into the team further. Roofe looked rusty at Ewood Park, while Hernandez played just 20 minutes of the game. 

    LEEDS, ENGLAND – OCTOBER 06: A general view of Elland Road, home of Leeds United FC during the Sky Bet Championship match between Leeds United and Brentford at Elland Road on October 6, 2018 in Leeds, England. (Photo by Alex Dodd – CameraSport via Getty Images)

    Having just lost 2-0 at home to QPR, and registering only one win from their opening 13 games, the Tractor Boys are looking fragile under new manager Paul Hurst.

    Fail to win this very presentable opportunity, and some fans may start to turn on the Leeds team as Mr Huckerby alluded to. 

    With over 7,000 packing the away end at Ewood Park however, it is also clear the Leeds fans will not be giving up on their team anytime soon. The belief remains intact. Leeds fans can get frustrated, but their overall support cannot ever be deterred.

    For Bielsa, Wednesday night will be vitally important on the back of tough encounters with Brentford and Blackburn. His mission will be to get the players to play with a sense of enjoyment and freedom, expressing themselves with the football at their feet. The superb passing for Mateusz Klich’s goal at Blackburn proves the team is capable of footballing magic, despite the slight dip in form. 

    Speaking after Saturday’s defeat, Bielsa said:  “Our goal was to avoid the result going through a negative cycle. Now we have to find solutions as soon as possible.”

    Being able to make amends so soon after Saturday offers a welcome opportunity to get back to winning ways and subsequently get the promotion form back on track.