LONDON (AFP) – Marcelo Bielsa said his Leeds players would relish their trip to Chelsea today, when the two clubs renew one of English football’s most bitter rivalries.
Hostilities between the clubs’ fans stretch back more than 50 years but it will be the first Premier League meeting between the teams for 16 years.
The rivalry dates back to the 1960s when both clubs regularly challenged for major honours and boiled over when they clashed in a notoriously brutal FA Cup final in 1970.
Chelsea won a spiteful replay after extra time at Old Trafford and the violence on the pitch was reflected in ill-feeling on the terraces. “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,” said Leeds boss Bielsa.
“For us, every game in the Premier League is very attractive and every opponent renews the difficulties we have to face,” added the Argentine, used to fierce rivalries from his days as manager of Newell’s Old Boys in his homeland.
“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.”
Frank Lampard’s presence in the Chelsea dugout adds extra spice.
Lampard, then in charge of Derby County, strongly criticised Bielsa when he deployed a scout to spy on his side in the 2018/19 season when both clubs were in the second-tier Championship. But he had the last laugh as his side knocked Leeds out in the play-offs at the end of that season.
Chelsea, who will welcome back 2,000 fans to Stamford Bridge for the first time since football was suspended due to coronavirus in March, would go top of the table with a victory, at least until tomorrow.
Leeds will be hoping to climb back into the top half of the table.