Bielsa praises divisive Leeds man; reveals chances of Phillips return at Hull

Date published: Wednesday 26th February 2020 10:33

Marcelo Bielsa praised Kiko Casilla for battling through the pain barrier to keep a clean sheet for Leeds against Middlesbrough.

A lone goal from Mateusz Klich gave Leeds their first away victory of the new decade, even without star midfielder Kalvin Phillips.

Phillips was one of three players with injury doubts that Bielsa mentioned in his press conference after the game – offering a hesitant response about his potential return at the weekend.

“He has an evaluation today in the morning. He wasn’t 100 per cent to play,” explained Bielsa. “Yesterday we thought he would play and today it was impossible.”

Asked if he would return at the weekend, along with January signing Jean-Kevin Augustin, Bielsa replied: “Not Augustin.

“Kalvin, I don’t know. Probably, but don’t want to make the same mistake of saying he will play.”

The 64-year-old tactician then clarified that Augustin is yet to start for Leeds because of “a muscular problem in his hamstring.”

Someone who has managed to play through the pain barrier, though, is divisive keeper Kiko Casilla, who kept a clean sheet for the third game in a row.

“It was a brave decision from him to play this match,” insisted Bielsa. “Not many players would have played this match with the pain he had.

“He had a good performance, safe. It was good from him.”

Leeds have now won each of their last three games by a one-goal margin, and while Bielsa admitted he wasn’t without nerves, he praised his team’s resilience.

“Everything that happens after minute 80, you cannot change it normally. If the difference is one goal it’s difficult to remain calm.

“Today the team protected the result a lot. We played well in different moments of the match.

“The team didn’t lose their calm. The team made few fouls. In general, we managed well the different situations in the match.

“Maybe in some moments of the second half Boro created problems for us. In general we had three times as many chances as them.

“The match was very tough, a lot of fight in the match. I think Middlesbrough was above their level in previous matches.”

Despite his pleasure at the performance, Bielsa accepted he would like to see his side being more clinical in front of goal.

“Every manager responds to this question positively. To score is the most difficult thing in football. The team more efficient have a big advantage.”

Elaborating further on what impressed him about Leeds’ performance, Bielsa drew attention to his team’s work rate and ability to get the job done without such a key player in Phillips.

“The team fought a lot, very aggressive. The team made a lot of effort. When necessary the whole team defended.

“We attacked well. Better in the first half than the second, with more chances. That is general.

“What I could say about the performance of the team was what I said before, but I am going to repeat. I think we attacked very well. We adapted very well to all the different moments of the match.

“We could resolve well the absence of Phillips. We were a compact team. Today was a match if we lost some focus or didn’t keep the motivation or intensity, we may have risked the match.”

 

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