Leeds United host high-flying Brighton at Elland Road on Saturday as they seek a second consecutive home win under new head coach Javi Gracia.
The Leeds gaffer has been speaking to the media ahead of the clash, and you can catch up on all the press conference’s key talking points below.
Gratitude for the “crucial” impact of supporters
Part of what makes Elland Road such a tough place to come for many teams is it’s raucous atmosphere. For Gracia, the “unbelievable” atmosphere was “crucial” in securing a vital 1-0 win against Southampton in his last home game.
“[They are] crucial for us. We know first of all playing with our supporters always is better,” Gracia said (as per Yorkshire Evening Post).
“They help us in the last home game in my opinion, it was the difference, to be able to win the game.
I want to thank them. They are supporting a lot and we can feel it. Playing against Southampton in the last home game, the atmosphere was unbelievable and it was what we needed to get the good result.”
Rodrigo and Sinisterra to be available?
As usual, Gracia remained relatively tight-lipped about injuries, but did reveal that both Rodrigo and Luis Sinisterra are back out on the pitch training.
“They are doing something with the team. They are starting [to train again].
Some long-term injured players need a process to come back and adapt. In the next training session we will evaluate the situation, [to see] if they can help us in our next game or we will have to wait.”
It remains to be seen whether both – or either – will feature against Brighton at the weekend, but positive steps do seem to be being taken in their recovery.
On his coaching staff and Chris Armas’ whereabouts
Gracia is content with the coaching staff he has at his disposal, and also gave an interesting update on Chris Armas’ position at the club.
Armas was brought to Thorp Arch about two weeks before former head coach Jesse Marsch was sacked, and it was believed that he still remained at the club despite Marsch’s departure. This doesn’t appear to be the case now, however.
“He’s not part of my staff. I came with Juan, Mikel and Zigor.
He’s not here and it’s something the club can explain better.
I have enough staff, the people that come with me from Spain, and in the club before, like Michael [Skubala], Marcos [Abad] – we don’t need more help.”
It appears that it is up to the club hierarchy to explain the situation surrounding the American coach.
Preparing for a “demanding” contest against Brighton
As is often the case in pre-match press conferences, Gracia was keen to talk up the positive aspects of Saturday’s opposition. Despite this, he is confident in his players to pick up a positive result.
“I think it’s one of the teams that’s playing better, it’s really strong attacking, scoring I think the fifth most goals scored.
Always in a good balance you can see in all the games they’ve played, always show their quality and they are doing really well.
It will be a very demanding game for sure, but we trust in ourselves and we’ve prepared well for this game.”
Focusing on finishing in training to stop missing chances
Much of the discussion about Leeds recently has concerned the difficulty they have in scoring goals. Considering that a combined xG of 3.2 across Gracia’s 3 games in charge has produced just 1 goal – this argument is not unfounded.
To combat this, the 52-year-old has been focusing on finishing in training this week. Ultimately – he states – it is an issue with “character” and “composure” which leads a player to miss a big chance within a game.
“Everybody knows in the last games we missed some chances but we create the chances. Now we have to be focused on trying to finish better.
This week we did many different exercises to try improve, to finish better. The moment of the game is different from the training sessions – in those moments you have to show your character and composure.”
A victory on Saturday could see the Whites go up to 15th in the Premier League table, and could prove crucial in their bid to avoid relegation for the second season running.