Historical rivalry appeals to Marcelo Bielsa as Leeds head to Chelsea

By Mark Walker, PA
·3-min read

Marcelo Bielsa said Stamford Bridge will hold no fears for his side on Saturday night when Leeds and Chelsea renew one of English football’s bitter rivalries.

Hostilities between the two clubs and their fans stretch back more than 50 years and Bielsa claimed his players will relish a fixture with so much history attached to it.

“I don’t think there’s a professional player who hasn’t lived through a time where they face an opponent which increases or multiplies their spirit for a certain game,” Bielsa said.

Chelsea celebrate David Webb’s extra-time winner in the 1970 FA Cup final replay at Old Trafford
Chelsea celebrate David Webb’s extra-time winner in the 1970 FA Cup final replay at Old Trafford (PA)

The 65-year-old is well-accustomed to arguably fiercer rivalries from his days as Newell’s Old Boys manager in his native Argentina.

“The players that we have in this squad, as a minimum, have been here for almost three years and they know the fans well,” he said.

“This allows them to live what the fans want and from what I know, the players that arrived here this season, they came here because of the fans and the way the fans live their football.”

A simmering rivalry between Leeds and Chelsea began in the 1960s when both clubs regularly challenged for major honours and reached boiling point by the time they clashed in a notoriously brutal FA Cup final in 1970.

Chelsea won a spiteful replay after extra time at Old Trafford. The violence displayed by both sides on the pitch that day manifested in hatred on the terraces.

Saturday’s fixture will be their first in the league for 16 years and yet large sections of both clubs’ fans have never stopped singing of their contempt for each other.

“For us, every game in the Premier League is very attractive and every opponent renews the difficulties we have to face,” Bielsa said.

“In the case of Chelsea, this happens without a doubt. With the added point that it’s a traditional encounter, even though it hasn’t happened for a very long time.”

The fact Frank Lampard is in charge adds more spice to the occasion. He was heavily critical of Bielsa during the ‘spygate’ saga two years ago when in charge of Derby.

Chelsea, who will welcome back 2,000 fans to Stamford Bridge for the first time since football was suspended in March, will go top of the table with victory, at least until Sunday.

Leeds will be hoping to climb back into the top half of the table, but even Bielsa admitted they have been unpredictable since returning to the top flight.

“We had a favourable start to the season where the goals that we conceded did not really affect the results because we were scoring plenty,” he said.

“Then there was a period where we conceded a lot of goals and we weren’t very efficient in attack.

“The third period, where we haven’t conceded goals and we’ve created opportunities to deserve to win. Which three of these periods describes us best, I wouldn’t know what to tell you.”