After 16 years of a rollercoaster ride to get back to the big time, Leeds will be desperate to stay in the Premier League this weekend – but they won’t be thrilled that it’s Brentford standing in their way.
For the average football fan, Leeds’ opponents in their last game of the season seem like the ideal candidates in their bid for survival – mid-table, nothing to play and enjoying their successful season.
However, this last-day affair in which Leeds must at least draw to have any hope of staying on their feet will not be as buddy-buddy as people would expect.
In the not so distant past, Leeds and Brentford both played in the Championship before the Yorkshire side were promoted to champions in 2020, and Brentford followed them via the play-offs in 2021.
The two teams had flirted with competing for the Premier League for the past decade, and despite being based on opposite sides of the country, they built up an unexpected rivalry in the 2019/20 season.
Leeds won the league, while the Bees ended up missing out on automatic promotion on the final day of the season thanks to a shock loss to Barnsley, losing to Fulham in the play-offs.
However, it’s not just the competition for promotion that has caused tension between the clubs.
So why is there unease between the two parties? Here’s how it happened two campaigns ago and why it will really sting Leeds if Brentford is the one to send them back to where their rivalry began…
lost in translation
The Whites had lost four of their last five games as the 2019/20 season drew to a close, and all eyes were on their clash against Brentford at Griffin Park.
Marcelo Bielsa’s side had beaten Frank’s side 1-0 in the reverse fixture, and ahead of the game in west London the Bees boss made a bold statement that hinted at a search at their home. promotion rivals.
However, just this week the Danish manager responded to the statement he made two years ago, making it clear that he did not mean Leeds should feel threatened.
“It’s nothing about Everton, Burnley or Leeds and I know that at my press conference I will be getting a lot of questions between the story about me and the ‘so-called’ Leeds fans and a video , but there is no story from my point of view,” said the Dane.
“In the Championship two years ago – I’m normally very transparent and honest, and I don’t play mind games – by mistake I said they [Leeds] will be afraid to come to Griffin Park – that’s what I said.
“That’s the only thing I’ve said since, I haven’t said anything bad. I think Leeds are one of the biggest clubs in the country. they should be in the Premier League with history and history.
Leeds fans would be better advised to refrain from giving the Bees manager too much of a stick again on Sunday, however…
Watch out for the gap
Frank was the subject of another tense moment between the teams during the 2019/20 campaign.
As Leeds celebrated their promotion to the top flight, Stuart Dallas and Liam Cooper seized the opportunity to dig their promotion rivals, in particular Frank.
“Watch out for the gap, Thomas Frank,” the pair chanted as they grabbed the trophy in a video released by Leeds as they got the party started.
This one seems to have retaliated slightly and could come back to haunt them on Sunday. Or at least Bee star Ivan Toney seems to think so…
To add insult to injury, former Leeds player turned Brentford captain Pontus Jansson could help inflict further woes on the Yorkshire side.
Jansson was also the skipper of Leeds until he was sold by then-boss Bielsa just before the start of the 2019/20 season. Reports at the time suggested that the defender had fallen out with him and that’s why he moved on.
However, the centre-back has since insisted that’s not the case, but admitted he and the Argentine are regularly at odds.
Despite an unhappy end at Elland Road, the Swede still has a soft spot for the club.
“To be completely honest, I miss Leeds and I love Leeds,” Jansson told Swedish outlet Fotbollskanalen in 2021.
“But I’m at a point in my life where I’m incredibly happy to be at my new club and how much I’m appreciated there.”
It’s likely that Jansson won’t be filled with too much revenge when he takes on Leeds this weekend, then.
But if the Bees got the upper hand on Sunday, their former captain putting the final nail in their relegation coffin would be a real sting.
Nothing separated the teams in December’s 2-2 draw at Elland Road, but could Leeds’ latest attempt to stay on their feet bring the tie back on fire?
talkSPORT will have exclusive coverage of the Brentford Community Stadium with a scheduled kick-off at 4pm.