Marcelo Bielsa is expecting Everton to be “hard to beat” when Leeds United welcome them to Elland Road on Saturday.
After last week’s defeat to Manchester United, Leeds will be back on home turf in two days’ time. Their next opponents are Everton, who began their season with victory over Southampton. It will be another tough challenge for Bielsa’s side, but they will be backed by their Elland Road crowd in full capacity for the first time since their Premier League return.
On the pitch, though, Bielsa is awaiting a tricky test, even though Everton are a side somewhat in transition. They lost coach Carlo Ancelotti to Real Madrid over the summer and replaced him with Rafael Benitez.
Despite the change, Bielsa believes Everton still have a strong manager in the dugout who will make his side tough to beat.
“I can’t remember facing him,” Bielsa said. “Been in the profession for a long time. Successful because he puts together compact teams. Always gets the maximum from his players.”
The Leeds boss does also not see much difference between Everton under Ancelotti and with their new boss.
“Has not been big changes with the players. Players are basically the same. Apart from wide players brought in,” he said. “Changes expected are those I mentioned: Benitez teams are strong, efficient and hard to beat.”
Bielsa will be looking forward to welcoming Leeds fans back to their home ground. Of course, they were unable to be fully present for their first campaign back in the Premier League in 17 years last term.
“The PL with and without fans is not the same,” Bielsa said. “The fans of Leeds are not the same as the majority of other teams in the league. To live this experience is unique.”
Turning his attention to on-field matters, Bielsa confirmed that Kalvin Phillips and Diego Llorente are not far away from returning.
“Another week of work means physically he’s better and closer,” Bielsa said of Phillips. He added of Llorente: “It’s probable he will have chances to compete again next week.”
Bielsa outlines Forshaw process
One player who has had to undergo a much longer process to return is Adam Forshaw. The midfielder missed the entirety of last season and most of the one before that, too.
He has been able to play on occasion for the under-23s in recent months, and even returned to the senior team’s substitutes bench for their season opener at Old Trafford.
Bielsa reiterated that they are taking their time with the former Middlesbrough man. However, once available again, the manager believes he will be retrieving a player whom there are no replacements for in the transfer market.
“Process with Forshaw has to be a long one to play at the highest level,” he explained. “Level of demand with 23s is not the same as PL. Not the same to finish or complete a game with a segment of games. Not the same to compete twice a week without once a week taken care of.
“Need to manage him completing two games in one week and this does not increase risk of injury. What a player does when they come into a squad in the PL. Playing once or twice a week and being able to recover in that time. If only one game then he’s able to train before and after that game.
“I made reference to the player AF was two years ago – one of the best Leeds had undoubtedly. After two years he’s not that same player without playing. His process to return to that level has to be progressive, commit him to feel confident. Rush this or anxiously, a lot of risks we run.
“Very serious and applied professional. I’m sure he has a desire to shorten the time. If there are errors we’ve made in the past with this injury, it was to accelerate the times and brought him back prematurely.
“When he is recovered, healthy and full he has the characteristics of a player you can’t buy in the market.”