Leeds United boss Javi Gracia has been unwavering in his mentality at Elland Road so far. For the Spaniard, the next Premier League game is only one worth thinking about and he won’t be looking beyond that as he focuses on the crucial three points that are on offer.
But, as the pressure is dialled up and the run-in begins to gather pace, supporters will be poring over the remaining fixtures and plotting where the points Leeds require to beat the drop are coming from. Most will have earmarked Sunday’s clash with Crystal Palace as one United needed three points from.
The win would have given Gracia’s side a five point cushion over the bottom three and that would have been enough to approach the final eight games of the season boasting a degree of breathing space. As it was, despite taking a first half lead, the Whites missed the opportunity in alarming fashion, crumbling to a 5-1 defeat on home soil.
It was an uncharacteristic collapse but it leaves them with little room for error as the campaign ebbs away. Leeds still have 24 points left to compete for, but with five of the top 10 still to play, collecting them looks easier said than done to say the very least.
Liverpool represent United‘s next opponents and Jurgen Klopp’s side travel to Elland Road on Monday night looking to breathe life into their hopes of securing European football. Of course, Leeds will take confidence from their win at Anfield in October, but they’ll be focused entirely on trying to bounce back in the right manner from their calamitous weekend showing.
Leeds will be underdogs for that one and it’s fair to make the same assumption about their trip to Fulham on April 22. Marco Silva’s side have had the beating of Leeds in two meetings this season and the trip to Craven Cottage looks a thankless one.
That game marks the start of a week that could be even bigger than the one Gracia’s side have just concluded, though. Leicester City travel to Elland Road on April 25, before Leeds wrap up the week with a trip to Bournemouth.
Both teams are in the relegation mire alongside the Yorkshire club and while it’s not clear how the land will lie by that point, at present nothing less than six points will do for Leeds ahead of a May schedule that can only be described as not for the fainthearted. The Whites have Manchester City, Newcastle United, West Ham United and Tottenham Hotspur to play in their final four matches and Premier League points could be at a premium.
It’s hard to predict how many points Leeds will need to get over the line. Last season Burnley finished 18 th with 35 points, the year before that, though, a total of 29 points would have been enough to finish above Fulham, West Bromwich Albion and Sheffield United.
The pace seems a little faster this time around with Nottingham Forest, who are currently in the bottom three, boasting 27 points already. As such, United aren’t able to work to a specific points total that they know will guarantee them a fourth straight campaign in the Premier League.
What’s clear, though, is that Leeds need more if they’re to achieve survival and they can’t afford to let more opportunities like the one they had on Sunday slip through their fingers at this late stage.