Leeds fans get to witness their side in the Premier League for the first time in 16 years on Sunday afternoon
After securing a top ten finish in their first season back in the Premier League in 16 years, Leeds fans will return to Elland Road for the first time in 14 months as they welcome already relegated West Brom on Sunday afternoon.
A lot has changed since the last time fans were allowed into Elland Road. Leeds were in the Championship while pundits and detractors predicted a late season slump the last time 20,000 fans filtered through the doors, but they’ve been consistently eating their words ever since.
Marcelo Bielsa’s brand of football was questioned by people who couldn’t be bothered to analyse his career and success that stretched back almost three decades, but the Whites results this year have left many gobsmacked at times.
The likes of Patrick Bamford, Jack Harrison and Stuart Dallas have stepped up to the Premier League with aplomb, and a sprinkling of stardust from the likes of Raphinha and Kalvin Phillips have ensured Bielsa is likely to stay another year to see where this adventure goes next.
The Argentine hasn’t actually signed a new deal for next season yet, and as usual says he will decide after the final game of the season, but will not manage any other team than Leeds next year.
In almost complete contrast, West Brom are having to start afresh next season, after Sam Allardyce confirmed he is leaving the club after suffering his first relegation from the top flight in his career. When pressed on why he wasn’t continuing despite being offered the chance to, the former Bolton manager confirmed his belief that he is a short-term manager, just as everybody seems to see him.
Whether or not they’ll be able to bounce straight back up or not will be discovered in time, but their farewell to the Premier League will not be with Robert Snodgrass and Branislav Ivanovic. Snodgrass needs a back operation to fix an injury, while Ivanovic has a thigh issue and could have played his last game in club football, as his contract is up in the summer and he may choose to retire at the age of 37.
Matheus Pereira is a doubt with a knock, but may play some part if he is to have one last audition for a Premier League team to come knocking for him in the summer. He’s been the main standout in a poor Baggies side, scoring 11 goals and providing seven assists.
As for Leeds, they confirmed on Friday that Gaetano Berardi and Pablo Hernandez will leave the club this summer, and both are likely to play some part against West Brom to bid farewell to the fans that have adored them for years. The pair were both huge parts of Leeds’ promotion year, and achieved cult hero status at Elland Road, but will head for pastures new.
At the other end of the scale, summer signings Rodrigo and Raphinha could both feel what an Elland Road crowd is like for the first time, having played only behind closed doors since signing from Spain and France respectively. Fellow summer arrival Diego Llorente is out though with a groin problem and will join Helder Costa and Adam Forshaw on the sidelines.
If Leeds can finish their season with their 18th victory, they could finish the season in eighth if other results favour them, level on points with Spurs in 7th, although unlikely to steal a UEFA Conference League place unless there’s a 15-goal swing in the results.
A win for the Baggies could take them above Fulham on the final day, but still way off where Sam Allardyce thought he could take the club when he arrived in December.
Leeds United take on West Bromwich Albion at Elland Road on Sunday, May 23rd. Kick-off is at 4pm.