LEEDS United manager Marcelo Bielsa isn’t concerned with the hostile atmosphere that awaits his side at The Den this Saturday – having been involved in some of world football’s most intense rivalries.
Former Argentina and Chile boss Bielsa takes brings his unbeaten Leeds to south London to face a Millwall side revved up after a positive international break and eager to end a run of three successive league losses.
The Den has sold out for the clash, with Leeds fans set to fill the top tier of the away stand.
Bielsa took over the Yorkshire club in the summer after spells coaching clubs in Argentina, Mexico, Spain and France.
He started his managerial career in Argentina with Newell’s Old Boys, who contest the Rosario derby against city rivals Rosario Central.
He has also experienced El Súper Clásico in Mexico, the name given to the derby between Bielsa’s former club América and Guadalajara.
Last season, almost a year to the day on Saturday, Leeds’ unbeaten start came to an end at a raucous Den.
“I am not very familiar with the atmosphere of football at Millwall,” Bielsa told the local media ahead of this weekend. “I have been spat on, assaulted, thrown bottles to me, never nothing serious happen to me.
“The seriousness of any social behaviour I don’t have to judge. What I can say is I don’t have a problem [tolerating] it. I don’t want to play the role of the victim in this kind of behaviours.
“We have to admire how the fans love their club and England has been the country who tried to eliminate this kind of violence in football. The hooligans do not exist in English football anymore. The other countries take England as an example.
“We are clear of the hostility and it is civilised competition. The description of the atmosphere is just an anecdote – I can’t think of any fans who would have more influence than ours.
“It is very important for us to receive and we have to prepare for the support the other team will get.”
Leeds have won four and drawn two of their league games this season, playing some dazzling football under a manager who has influenced figures such as Pep Guardiola and Mauricio Pochettino.
He is promising to stick to the style of football that has taken Leeds to the top of the Championship, while also preparing for how the Lions will play, comparing the approach of Neil Harris' side to Middlesbrough's.
“You evaluate the styles especially when you play against teams that have an opposite style,” Bielsa continued. “It is always something new that we have to find a solution to.
“We will see if we will be faithful to our style or make concessions against a rival. We might have three possibilities.
“The first is not to take any risk that we have to take to be faithful to our style. I am not willing to choose this first possibility.
“The second option is to be faithful to our style and then this allows the rival to make an opposition. I wouldn’t choose this option either because usually the teams who fall into this are described as naive teams and we criticise these kinds of teams. We all know that styles are valid if we can overcome the rival.
“The content of the style is only safe if we have success and there is a third possibility. This is to be faithful to our style and to our rival – what will happen is one of these possibilities.
“The game against Boro [a 0-0 draw at Elland Road] was a good scenario to find the answer to the question. Against Boro we had the ball and possession but few chances to score. The opponent had more chances to score than us with a tool that is very easy to implement. And for us it was very difficult to neutralise this tool.
“It is difficult to play against these things when there is a difference between the size of players, but we did a big effort and prevented Boro from scoring any goal. I think the game against Boro prepared us for this coming game. We have the obligation to improve our performance because before playing against Boro we knew what opposition we would face."
Millwall have won eight out of the last nine games against Leeds at The Den.
Bielsa added: “Against Millwall it is more important because we know what opposition we will face and also because we have the experience playing this kind of game.
“It will be a game similar to the one we played against Boro. It is a team that doesn’t have the same ranking as Boro but they did things in the past that describe the possibilities. A team that is with the same players for a long time, they have simulated the style.
"We will face similar difficulties against Millwall as the ones we faced against Boro.”
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