Leeds United will be hoping they can pick up where they left off when competitive action returns to the Championship at the weekend.
The Whites had won their last five league matches in the second tier, before off-the-field events called an abrupt halt to their momentum heading into the final nine matches of this year’s campaign.
Marcelo Bielsa’s side are currently sat top of the Championship table, and will be hoping they can hold their nerve in the race for promotion into the Premier League.
Leeds have returned to training in recent weeks, and the club have made the somewhat surprising decision to play 11 vs 11 matches between a mix of the first-team and Under-23s squad on a regular basis, as opposed to facing other clubs.
Speaking in an interview with Football Insider, former Leeds defender Danny Mills understood the thinking behind playing matches between the Leeds squad.
“You can set up as you want and you can tell the opposition to play in a certain way and be how you want to be. You have a little bit more control over it.
“I do not think Marcelo Bielsa will be concerned over their fitness. We know how hard he works his teams and I am pretty sure they will be the fittest team coming back into this.”
Mills went on to admit that Bielsa is likely to believe that his squad are fitter than the majority of other teams that they’ll come up against in the second tier this term.
“We know how much control he likes to put on things and he will want to control every element of what his players are doing right now. He probably believes that his reserves, or B team are fitter than most of the other teams.
“They might get a harder work out playing against each other. He could get 60 minutes flat out against each other or 90 minutes against another team at 70 per cent. So it is no real surprise.”
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I can understand Bielsa’s thinking on this.
Playing matches between the Leeds United squad gives Bielsa a chance to plan his squad how he likes, and will give him more time to look at players that might not have previously been in contention to challenge for a spot in the starting XI.
However, there will be concerns that it’s not quite the same as facing another club, who will be keen to build their match fitness levels themselves ahead of the season resumption.
I certainly agree with Mills in saying that Leeds are likely to be one of the fittest teams in the Championship this season, and I can’t see anyone stopping them in their pursuit of a long-awaited promotion back into the Premier League.