Super League? Super Leeds! A look into the Whites' rampant return to the big time

From challenging the champions to trouncing Tottenham, Leeds United have enjoyed significant success in their first season back in the top flight.

May 8, 2004 - an already relegated Leeds United play their final home game of the 2003/04 Premier League season, drawing 3-3 with Charlton Athletic.

If you'd have told anyone involved with the club that this would be their last Premier League game at Elland Road for 16 years, it would have been pretty obvious things were about to go badly wrong - and for the most part they did do.

From League One football and administration to play-off heartbreaks and promotions. Not to forget about the managerial merry-go-rounds, crooked owners and a number of *ahem* questionable cup exits. 

It's fair to say the Whites have posed as a perfect encapsulation of football's euphoric highs and heartbreaking lows within the last two decades.

Since Leeds' infamous relegation that season, a total of 20 managers tried to guide the club back to the promised land, and all 20 fell short.

Following a 13th-placed finish under Paul Heckingbottom in 2017/18, ties were subsequently severed between the club and the former Barnsley man as fans began to face the monotonous deja-vu of mid-table mediocrity in the Championship.

All felt lost at Leeds, and had done for some time. That was until the club announced the groundbreaking appointment of Marcelo Bielsa - a man who had managed all over the world and was lauded by Pep Guardiola for his innovative ideology of the beautiful game.

It was the beginning of one of the most illustrious and unique love affairs in the club's 101 year history. After agonisingly falling short in his first season, Bielsa's revolutionised Leeds marched on to the Championship title to seal a return back to the big time.

They currently remain on course for a top-half finish in their first season back in the Premier League.

The prospect of a sell-out crowd being unable to cheer on the team on their first season back in the Premier League has been unwelcome in West Yorkshire. However, a notable appraisal of the team in this campaign has been a plethora of proficient performances at their home ground.

Planet Sport have taken a look at some key talking points of the return of Premier League football to Elland Road.

Stopping the Super Six

In the wake of the calamitous rise and inevitable fall of the European Super League, the six English clubs in question continue to receive backlash from fans standing against their decisions to alter a game loved by so many.

One major talking point has been the viability of the 'super' status of particular teams. Especially with North London clubs Tottenham - who haven't won a major trophy for 13 years and Arsenal - who remain on course for a first season without European football in 25 years.

With this in mind, a number of fans and pundits alike have rejoiced in the statistic that not a single 'Super League' team have been able to beat the Whites at Elland Road this season.

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The 3-1 victory over Spurs last weekend means that Leeds have taken eight points from six fixtures on home turf this season, scoring five goals and conceding only three times, making them the only side this season to have achieved such a feat.

Fiercely-fought goalless stalemates against Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea have all contributed to establishing Leeds as a difficult opponent in the league this season. In contrast, score draws against Manchester City and Liverpool perfectly exemplify the side's resolute nature, with them having to come from behind in both.

A rampant Leeds display last weekend saw them dismantle Tottenham and inflict further pain upon a turbulent season for the North London outfit - a tie deserving of 30,000 Leeds fans passionately chantinng 'Marching on Together'.

The stats don't lie!

Bielsa's team have enjoyed fantastic football at Elland Road this season
Bielsa's team have enjoyed fantastic football at Elland Road this season

In the home form table, Leeds currently sit ninth, one position higher than where they reside in that of the away form one, having played 18 games in each.

Bielsa's boys are undefeated in 12 games (seven wins and five draws) at their historic home, suffering just six defeats, compared to their nine victories and nine defeats on the road.

Leeds have endured both their biggest victory and biggest defeat away from home, in the form of the 5-0 victory at West Brom and the chaotic 6-2 drubbing against Man United respectively.

At Elland Road, they have scored 25 goals and conceded just 20, leaving them with a goal difference of +5, a positive upturn of 10 in comparison to their performances on the road, where they have scored three more goals yet let 13 more in.

Sixty percent of the Whites' clean sheets this season have come in home fixtures. They have kept 10 in total across the whole campaign, with three games remaining.

Brilliant Bamford the key to success

Bamfrod has been instrumental in Leeds' push for a top-half finish
Bamfrod has been instrumental in Leeds' push for a top-half finish

From coming under severe scrutiny regarding his capabilities in the top flight to being in serious contention for a place in Gareth Southgate's 26-man England squad, Patrick Bamford is undisputedly in the form of his career at Leeds this season.

The former Chelsea striker has finally found his form in the Premier League under Bielsa this season and has been unequivocally instrumental to the Whites' success in this campaign.

Therefore, it will come as no surprise that the talismanic number-nine has recorded the most goal contributions in home fixtures this season than any other Leeds United player.

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Of Bamford's 15 goals this season, six have come in matches at Elland Road, alongside three of his seven assists - and the side have a 100% win percentage in home fixtures when he scores.

He has played in all 18 of Leeds' home fixtures this season, and completed a full 90 minutes on 12 separate occasions - further emphasising Leeds' reliance on the striker in important games.

With fans looking likelier than ever to return in their numbers next season, Bamford's unmatched home form could improve further with the force of 30,000 impassioned Leeds fans behind him.

Memorable match: Mauling the magpies

Aside from the aforementioned displays against the six teams in question, Leeds have put in a number of pivotal performances on home turf, and very few have been as impressive as their 5-2 dismantling of Newcastle United in December last year.

The display was the Whites' joint-highest scoring game in LS11 during this campaign thus far, equalling the dramatic 4-3 victory over Fulham in just the second game of the season.

Following a closely-contested hour of football, a flurry of late goals enabled the hosts to undeniably put the game beyond the reach of Steve Bruce's side and seal an emphatic victory.

It was Newcastle who scored the first goal of the game through Jeff Hendrick, but Patrick Bamford was on hand to level for Leeds before the interval. 

Rodrigo regained the lead for Bielsa's side with a header of his own. Newcastle equalised proceedings through an unorthodox goalscorer in the form of Ciaran Clark to set up an enticing final half-hour.

But it was from that point on that game read a tale of two teams as Leeds ruthlessly scored three goals in quick succession, much to the dismay of Steve Bruce.

Stuart Dallas put Leeds ahead for the second time of the match with an intuitive header at the back post to score the third. Gjanni Alioski finished in style for the fourth and a solo-run from Jack Harrison capped off an incredible display for five star Leeds United.

Good times are on the horizon

Leeds fans are desperate to return to Elland Road
Leeds fans are desperate to return to Elland Road

With just two games of the Premier League season remaining, Leeds have survived in style, stood as a thorn in the side of the Super League six, and continued the new-found positivity in Elland Road that had been lost for so long.

An imminent contract-renewal from Bielsa will be greatly welcomed across the Leeds' faithful as the club look to continue the success story of the Argentine's tenure at Elland Road.

Lauded for their terrific support up and down the country, Leeds United fans have a national reputation for their large followings and array of inventive chants wherever they may find themselves in the UK and beyond.

Their previous four seasons in the Championship saw average crowds of no lower than 27,000, notably reaching 33,5000 in the 2018/19 season - and it comes as no coincidence that this happened to be the season Bielsa joined the club.

In the current situation, a packed sea of white shirts doesn't feel that far away, and when it inevitably arrives, the sky's the limit for El Loco and his unique group of stellar professionals in a city where they are adored.

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