Football Features

“He is so unique in world football” – Leeds Utd vs Man City, a meeting of two managerial trailblazers

By Harry Edwards

Published: 20:00, 2 October 2020

Leeds United host Manchester City in the Premier League on Saturday afternoon, pitting two managerial titans up against each other.

The story of Pep Guardiola’s admiration for Marcelo Bielsa is familiar to many football fans. It goes back to 2006, when the former was in the tail end of his playing career and looking for a way into management.

Guardiola was advised to speak to Bielsa by former Roma teammate Gabriel Batistuta, who had played under him for the Argentinian national team. As the story goes, Guardiola visited Bielsa on his ranch in Rosario and the pair ended up talking for 11 hours covering topics ranging from cinema to tactics and the minutest of details regarding management.

Over the years, Guardiola hasn’t shied away from praising Bielsa, and gushed with praise after Leeds’ promotion to the Premier League.

“He is unique in world football because of the special way he plays,” he said.

“He is an authentic manager. No other manager in the world plays the way he plays. He is an incredible person. He is so special.

“It is my personal opinion but it will be incredible for English football to have him in the Premier League next season.”

Despite the excitement surrounding Saturday’s game, it is not the first meeting between Guardiola and Bielsa. The pair have previously faced off three times, all coming during the 2011/12 season when they were at Barcelona and Athletic Bilbao respectively.

The first game resulted in a 2-2 draw in La Liga at San Mames, but Barcelona would take the next two, winning the reverse league fixture 2-0 and beating Bilbao 3-0 to win the Copa del Rey.

Leeds Utd v Man City quickfire predictions:

A.) Over 3.5 goals (10/11 with Sky Bet): Man City average 6.95 shots on target per away game in the Premier League since the start of last season, the highest average in the division. Leeds, meanwhile, have scored eight and conceded seven top-flight goals in their three games this season so far.

B.) Man City to win (4/11): Guardiola’s record at City away to newly promoted teams is 12 games, nine wins, two draws and one loss (which came against Norwich last season).

C.) UNLESS Leeds Utd score first (see Sky Bet’s in-play odds after kick-off for this one): City have won zero points from losing position since the start of last season. They have lost seven times in this period.

*All odds stated in this article are accurate at the time of publication (20:00, 02/10/2020); but customers wishing to take advantage of Sky Bet’s various In-play special offers should note that they will certainly vary in price beyond kick-off. You have to be 18+ to gamble. BeGambleAware

Yet despite the positive record against a man he clearly admires, and the favourable odds of 4/11 with Sky Bet* for Saturday’s game, Guardiola has a point to prove.

Man City were handed their first defeat of the season last weekend, thrashed 5-2 by Leicester City, as an expensive defence was unravelled by Jamie Vardy and Co. In contrast, Leeds are enjoying a good return to the Premier League, winning their past two games and in search of a third consecutive top-flight victory for the first time since January 2003.

Patrick Bamford is also searching a place alongside one of Leeds’ greats. The 27-year-old, who many doubted would be good enough for the Premier League, has scored in three consecutive games so far. The last Leeds player to score in four consecutive Premier League games was the legendary Mark Viduka, who did so in April 2004.

The big question for Bamford now is whether he can join Viduka (he is 13/5 to do so anytime), and fire Leeds to another Premier League win, or if Guardiola will get the better of one of his idols once more.


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