Behind Enemy Lines: Leeds United

MILLWALL have lost three consecutive Championship games, but have had a positive two weeks on the training pitch during the international break.

Six players have been away with their countries, including Shaun Williams and Aiden O’Brien, who both netted their first goals for the Republic of Ireland.

It’s a sell-out at The Den and Neil Harris will hope that spurs his team on, which it usually does.



Leeds are top of the Championship, Marcelo Bielsa starting life very well at Elland Road.

Lucas Ball spoke to journalist and Leeds fan Jon Mackenzie this week.

Twitter: @Jon_Mackenzie



Why do you support Leeds?

My parents met at Bradford University and settled down there briefly after they were married. I was only young when they moved away but I had enough friends from that time that they brainwashed me one summer (1994 World Cup summer to be precise).

After that, Tony Yeboah happened and I was not going back.

What’s been your favourite season following the Yorkshire side – and why?

2000-01 – fourth in the Premier League and semi-finals of the Champions League. Need I say more?

What’s different with Marcelo Bielsa to the host of managers that have been in the dugout in recent years?

He's a very good manager?

But seriously though – Bielsa needs no introduction. If you haven't heard of him, then you need to get your head out of the hole it's been in. The guy has taken a bunch of players who weren't up to much last season and made them the team to beat in the Championship.

How do you think he has managed to implement his style to such great effect so quickly?

Hard work, mainly. This is a man who does his homework and throws himself into his management.

The big question that everyone is asking is whether or not his team will burn out before the end of the season. But that is because he is spending hours with them on the training field, making sure they know exactly what is required of them.

Do you think that they can maintain it and finally make this the season in which Leeds return to the top flight? (Liam Cooper has already claimed that Leeds are the fittest team in the division.)

I've looked into the history of Bielsa's managerial career and there are only a couple of points where the "burn-out" narrative really has any sort of corroborating evidence.

The key for me is whether or not they can build up a sizeable lead on the play-off places so that any late dip in form can be buffered against.

Why do you think things went so horribly wrong after a great start under Thomas Christiansen last season?

I don't think the team were particularly great. I think they were lucky. And I don't think Christiansen was good enough, ultimately.

We were lucky that we did have such a good start though – without it, we might have been in a relegation battle.

Millwall have won eight of the last nine meetings between the sides at The Den. How significant will it be if Leeds can break their usual South Bermondsey hoodoo?

It would be nice to break the streak. I was there at the Swansea game – sorry for bringing that up – and Millwall look very much like a team who Leeds should be beating.

There is always the worry that a team who will sit deep and hit us on the break will cause us problems. Given that you struggled to do the same against a team who were down to 10 men for most of the game, I'm not so sure it will be enough at the weekend.

Looking a long way ahead to January, are there any additions you would want already, a lack of depth in any positions, possibly?

Central defence is our biggest worry right now. That said, Bielsa seems happy to play Gaetano Berardi and Liam Cooper ahead of Pontus Jansson so don't expect this to change anytime soon.

The club have invested smartly in the summer, bringing a lot of youngsters in on loan to give as much depth as possible. If players like Jack Harrison, Tyler Roberts and Lewis Baker can perform this season, we should be fine for squad players.

Who will be Bielsa’s key men on Saturday afternoon?

Samu Saiz is very important for us creatively as is Pablo Hernandez (if he plays).

In the defensive area, Kalvin Phillips is pivotal (in both senses of the word), dropping in between the centre-backs and helping transition the ball out of the back.

Which Millwall players will the visitors be keeping a close eye on?

I was mildly impressed by the two Wallaces a week last Saturday.

Jed seemed like the most likely to make anything happen going forward, and Murray was solid at the back and looked good with his feet.

What are your thoughts on Millwall boss Neil Harris?

I'm glad he's no longer playing so that he doesn't score against us. But then again, Steve Morison (where's the second 'r'?) will manage, like he always does, to score.

If you could sign one Lions player, who would it be and why?

Erm… you're okay. I'll stick with who we have…

What’s your predicted Leeds starting XI and formation?

Expect a 4-1-4-1 of the following players: Bailey Peacock-Farrell; Luke Ayling, Gaetano Berardi*, Liam Cooper, Barry Douglas; Kalvin Phillips; Pablo Hernandez*, Samu Saiz, Mateusz Klich, Gjanni Alioski; Kemar Roofe.*

(*All ruled out through injury since answers were supplied.)

Finally, will you be coming to The Den and what’s your score prediction?

I'm still waiting to hear on my press pass, but hopefully.

And I'll go for 3-0 Leeds – I'm feeling buoyant.

Staff

(@NewsAtDen)