Leeds United aiming for champagne moment in Yorkshire derby
Leeds United will be looking to nail the three points that will ensure their participation in the Premier League for another season when they return to action after the international break on Saturday.
Although the key victory at Fulham in the last match before the break went a long way to making sure the Whites did not get involved in a relegation battle it is passing the magic 40-point barrier that usually signals safety - and that figure will be reached if Leeds avoid defeat at home to Sheffield United.
Former manager Howard Wilkinson used to break out the champagne when his side passed 40 points in the top flight and Marcelo Bielsa can justifiably do the same if his team gets there this weekend.
To do it with eight games remaining as well would represent a good achievement and the planning can reasonably be started for next year.
In this respect Leeds will be wary not to follow Saturday's opponents. The Blades were impressive before the initial lockdown when pushing for a place in Europe in their first season back in the Premier, but have suffered since the resumption, fading last season and now looking certainties for relegation this campaign.
They are not quite down yet, however, and a win at Elland Road could fuel some sort of late revival. It would also give their caretaker manager Paul Heckingbottom some sweet revenge after he was edged out of the hot seat at Leeds for Bielsa to come in.
Heckingbottom insists he has no ill-feeling towards Leeds after his time as manager was cut short just four months in.
He said: “I still speak to the ownership there. No ill feeling.
"Right club, wrong time for myself. That is how you have to look at it.
"It gave me another experience to work with a really good group of players and another ownership and it gives you an opportunity to learn and get better. I don’t regret it at all, I’ve enjoyed every role I’ve had in football.
"It’s always nice to be up against a former team. Sometimes it brings an edge and sometimes you want to see people but from our point of view, it’s not worth more points so our approach will be the same.
"We know they’re good opponents but we’re looking to build on the Chelsea performance and make that the minimum, if you like, for the rest of the season."
Bielsa, meanwhile, will weigh up his options before deciding on his line-up for the Blades clash.
Skipper Liam Cooper is likely to return after injury while Spaniards Pablo Hernandez and Rodrigo are back in training, but midfielder Mateusz Klich is a doubtful starter as he is currently going through covid protocols following his positive test while on international duty with Poland.
The fitness of others who were in action for their countries will be assessed with Kalvin Phillips, in particular, entitled to be tired after playing in all of England's World Cup qualifiers.
Striker Rodrigo may have to settle for a place on the bench because of his lack of football recently, but he has declared himself happy at Elland Road following speculation about his future at the club.
Reports from Spain had claimed that Rodrigo was looking to leave Leeds this summer, just a year on from becoming the club’s record signing.
He has struggled to justify his big price tag at times in the Premier League, but boss Bielsa has gone on record as saying he was happy with the Spaniard's contribution in his first season.
And Rodrigo took to Instagram yesterday to say he does not want to leave Leeds and that he is currently loving his time at the club.
He said: “I’m not a person to comment on nonsense stories, however in this case I want to make it clear that stories about me wanting to leave Leeds and a bad relationship with Marcelo are false.
“I am very sorry that some people try to misinform our fans - my feelings are the opposite.
“I am happy, focused and working hard to help my teammates to end this great season in the best possible way. I love being at @leedsunited, I respect my coach and I identify with this club!
“Come on Leeds MOT.”