Marcelo Bielsa watched on as Leeds United took another step towards the Premier League on Saturday afternoon, with the Whites beating Blackburn Rovers 3-1 at Ewood Park.
Leeds headed to Lancashire on the back of a patchy restart, but were not troubled by Blackburn as goals from Patrick Bamford, Kalvin Phillips and Mateusz Klich wrapped up a big three points for the Whites.
Bamford’s early strike was his 15th of the season, whilst Phillips put his set-piece woe to bed on the stroke of half-time, doubling Leeds’ lead with a fine free-kick.
Adam Armstrong responded with a goal to equal Phillips’ effort at the start of the second-half, but Leeds were unmoved, with Klich wrapping up the points with an effort too strong for Christian Walton.
The win leaves Leeds 10 points away from the Premier League with five games remaining, with attention now beginning to turn to Stoke City on Thursday evening.
However, before then, we assess what we learnt about Bielsa’s side on Saturday…
Barry’s back with his best
Barry Douglas has had a tough two seasons at Leeds, where he’s struggled to meet the lofty expectations he arrived at the club with.
Saturday was the left-back’s second start in the Championship this calendar year, but it was a good one and he looked something like his best.
Bielsa will have been pleased with the balance Douglas brought to his back-four defensively, whilst his ball retention and set-piece were also very good, leaving him with three scoring chances created in 90 minutes.
Douglas forced Walton into a good second-half save to deny him his first Leeds goal, which would have been the icing on a very encouraging cake upon his return to the team.
A clash with Stoke in midweek offers Douglas a chance to build on this and prove he can be the answer at left-back long-term.
A much-needed improvement from Klich
Mateusz Klich has been a revelation under Bielsa since the Argentine arrived in Leeds in 2018, but he’s not been at his best since the restart last month.
However, this was Klich at his best. He scored a goal and created another, with his all-round play really high in quality.
It was classic Klich for Bamford’s opener, with the Polish international pressing Lewis Travis into a mistake before feeding his striker; he leads Bielsa’s high press and this really set the tone for the Whites.
His goal was scrappy and he’s scored better, but he wasn’t afraid to punch a shot towards Walton from outside the area and it caught the goalkeeper out, restoring Leeds’ two-goal lead in the second-half.
When he’s in this sort of mood, Klich drives Leeds on and you realise his importance.
Him finding his groove now is crucial.
A grand finale set-up
It’s been a long time coming, but Leeds’ return to the Premier League feels as close as it ever has now.
Bielsa’s side need 10 points from their remaining five fixtures to secure top-flight football, even if Brentford continue their fine winning streak.
A trip to Swansea City next Sunday looks daunting, but that’s sandwiched between home fixtures with Stoke and Barnsley. If Leeds can avoid repeating the mistakes they made against Luton Town last week, maximum points from those games at Elland Road are a real possibility.
Then, eyes would be on a trip to Derby County on July 18th. The Rams ruined the dream a year ago and revenge would be so sweet this season if it concluded with Leeds celebrating promotion in the Pride Park dressing room, bettering the party Frank Lampard threw at Elland Road in May 2019.
The Championship is unpredictable and Leeds won’t be getting ahead of themselves just yet. Bielsa will have them focused no further than Stoke on Thursday, but you can’t deny the stars feel like they are aligning after 16 years of hurt.