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Leeds United

Bielsa’s Premier League pre-season is “hardest one yet”

Leeds United midfielder Mateusz Klich says the Argentine coach is upping the workload ahead of the new season, with ‘murderball’ sessions

Leeds United midfielder Mateusz Klich says the Argentine coach is upping the workload ahead of the new season, with ‘murderball’ sessions

Leeds United boss Marcelo Bielsa has built a reputation as one of the most demanding coaches in world football with his intense fitness regimes and full-throttle playing style. Unsurprisingly, the man who once said “if players weren’t human, I’d never lose” has been pushing his charges hard ahead of the club’s return to the top flight.

Midfielder Mateusz Klich spoke of a step up in preparations compared to his previous two seasons under the Argentine but feels that it leaves the club well-placed to adapt to Premier League football.

“I think this one is the most intense and hardest one yet,” said Klich of their punishing pre-season itinerary.

“Obviously, we didn’t have much of a holiday, but to be fair I couldn’t wait to start the next season, so I didn’t want to have any more holidays.”

Back in the top-flight after 16 years

Very few of Bielsa’s ambitious Leeds side have played in the English top flight before and even those who have, such as former Crystal Palace and Chelsea striker Patrick Bamford, have struggled at that level. However Klich is confident that the intensity of Bielsa’s methods and the squad’s impressive physical fitness will allow them to make the step up.

“Some of the boys have played in the Premier League already, but I have never been and for me it is going to be a nice experience playing in the best league in the world and I can’t wait."

"The Premier League is a little different to the Championship and I think it is going to be harder for us… As I said, though, we just can’t wait to start and we will see what happens, we have a good team and we are very fit and it is going to be a nice ride.”

‘Murderball’ sessions help to build intensity

Of all the eccentricities of Bielsa’s time in Yorkshire, his ‘murderball’ sessions have become the stuff of legend for anyone following Leeds’ progress under him. Once a week he sets up an 11 vs 11 match with no free-kicks, no stoppages and the ball constantly kept in play by an army of coaches and assistants. The 45-minute session is designed to replicate the intensity that Bielsa demands on a Saturday afternoon and has been described as tougher than actual matches by some players.

With the return of the Premier League closing in there were four of these exhausting sessions held last week. Usually the Leeds squad only face one ‘murderball’ session a week but Bielsa is increasing the workload for what is a truncated pre-season. A number of players, including new signings Rodrigo and Robin Koch, will be away on international duty for the next week so there is little time for him to work with the whole squad.

Tough start on their return to the top table

Of all the possible fixtures for their first weekend back in the Premier League, a trip to Anfield to face the champions is about as hard as it gets. Liverpool will be desperate to start strongly in what is a hugely significant game for both sides. The home team will begin a defence of their title for the first time in three decades and for Leeds it is a first Premier League fixture in 16 years.

The last league meeting between the two clubs came in February 2004 when they played out a 2-2 draw at Elland Road. Both sides have changed dramatically since then but there is one part that still remains all these years later, although he will be wearing a different shirt this time. James Milner was just 18 years old when he started for his boyhood club against Liverpool and he could be in line for a start again at Anfield having being named captain for the Community Shield defeat to Arsenal last weekend.

Leeds face newly-promoted Fulham in their first home fixture in what could be a crucial opportunity to pick up some points. Games against Sheffield United, Manchester City and Wolverhampton Wanderers complete the opening five fixtures of a tough return to life in the top flight.


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