Marcelo Bielsa plays down Thomas Tuchel’s criticism of Chelsea ahead of Leeds clash


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Marcelo Bielsa insists he has not seen a decline in Chelsea’s performances in recent weeks and believes his Leeds side are in for one of their toughest tests of the season at Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea have been tipped as a genuine force in this year’s Premier League title race alongside Liverpool and Manchester City, with the club enjoying an impressive start to the campaign on the back of their Champions League success last term.

But the Blues have managed just one win from their last three top-flight matches which has seen them slip from first to third in the table as they prepare to entertain a similarly out-of-sorts Leeds team this weekend.

The club’s 3-3 draw with Zenit St Petersburg will have done little to lift the mood in the dressing room and an irate Thomas Tuchel slammed his players’ performance following the clash, saying they had stopped doing the basics and ‘changed their behaviours’.

Magomed Ozdoyev’s stoppage-time equaliser meant the reigning European champions missed out on top spot to Juventus and progressed through to the Champions League last 16 only as runners-up.

Bielsa, though, speaking at his Thursday press conference, argued Chelsea’s showing versus Zenit did not ‘represent their true strength’ given Tuchel made eight changes to his starting XI in Russia.

‘The performance from yesterday against Zenit was from a mixed squad that doesn’t represent their true strength,’ the Leeds head coach told reporters when asked about Tuchel’s scathing criticism of Chelsea’s display.

‘And the defeat against West Ham… you have to watch and analyse it to see if the result aligned with what was deserved, how the game went.

‘I didn’t see a decline in the way they play. But you have told me what the Chelsea manager thinks and if what you say is true then I’m not anyone to say anything to the contrary. Nor do I feel that it’s right to interpret his feelings as he is the one that looks at his own team.

‘I’m just offering my points of view as another spectator. The team they played yesterday was not their normal team and the result against West Ham, I’m not sure if it’s what Chelsea really deserved.

‘To confirm what I’m saying, with respect to the game yesterday, all you have to do is look at the starting XI and then with regards to the game against West Ham there isn’t sufficient data to say whether what he has said is right or not.’

Bielsa intends to approach Leeds’ trip to Chelsea with the same game-plan, regardless of the personnel Tuchel decides to select in attack.

‘They’re all centre-forwards with different characteristics, but we’re not going to plan the game differently depending on who’s playing,’ Bielsa added.

Kalvin Phillips will miss Leeds’ trip to Chelsea and looks set to be out of action for the next two months after picking up a hamstring injury in the club’s 2-2 draw with Brentford on Sunday.

And it appears the England midfielder could use his time on the sidelines to undergo surgery on a separate shoulder problem, which he has been struggling with since the end of last season.

‘The time they will be out is subject to their evolution, and I can’t express myself any clearer in that sense,’ Bielsa added.

‘If the time that Phillips needs to recover from this hamstring injury exceeds the one that he needs to recover from his shoulder, then it makes sense.

‘But as we don’t know how long he is going to take to recover from his current injury, I can’t apply that common sense.’

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