After 15 years outside of the Premier League, including a three-year stint in EFL League One, Leeds United finally looked poised to return to the top flight of English football as Marcelo Bielsa’s side occupied 2nd place in The Championship with just four games to go.
But as Leeds fans who have experienced the past decade and a half will know, having promotion in their own hands shouldn’t necessarily produce boundless optimism.
The more pragmatic Leeds fan was proven right on Good Friday, when The Peacocks slipped to a shocking 2-1 home defeat to a ten-man Wigan side, allowing Sheffield United to leapfrog then into second once more.
With three games to go, Leeds are level on points with Sheffield United but sit behind The Blades on goal difference. Leeds have already done enough to secure a play-off place as mathematically they can now finish no lower than 3rd and thus would get a second bite at the promotion cherry even if Sheffield United did beat them to the second automatic promotion spot (at this stage, leaders Norwich are all but promoted needing 4 more points to go up).
But right now that can’t be in their thoughts. Leeds have three remaining games against Brentford, Aston Villa and Ipswich Town and the focus has to be on winning all three, while hoping Sheffield United slip up. History has told us that missing out on automatic promotion to land in the play-offs is a damaging blow, with the play-off winner usually being the one out of the quarter that enters the semi-finals in most form. Right now that would be Aston Villa.
The bookmakers seem somewhat undecided at present about whether Premier League football will be returning to Elland Road next season, with Leeds generally at odds of around 4/6 to get promoted across online pokies sites.
Owing to their current league position, Leeds are therefore third favourites with gambling sites like www.kiwicasinos.nz to go up, behind Norwich and Sheff United. But it’s Villa who will probably see most of the money from punters in the coming fortnight, having won an incredible 9 games in a row.
Leeds’ game with Aston Villa next Sunday is now colossal and may we’ll decide Leeds United’s promotion chances. But first things first, Bielsa’s men need to put the Wigan result behind them and get back to winning ways.
That starts with Brentford on Monday.