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Jesse Marsch and Leeds gear up for ‘defining moment’ against Brighton

Head coach Jesse Marsch has two games left to keep Leeds in the Premier League (Mike Egerton/PA)
Head coach Jesse Marsch has two games left to keep Leeds in the Premier League (Mike Egerton/PA)

Leeds head coach Jesse Marsch is preparing his players for “the defining moment in the season” at Elland Road on Sunday against Brighton.

Three straight defeats have left Leeds staring at relegation and victory could lift them back out of the Premier League’s bottom three with one game to play.

Marsch took on a fight for survival when he replaced Marcelo Bielsa in February and when asked if it was Leeds’ biggest game in years, he said: “I haven’t been here. It’s hard for me to reflect on that so well.

“I watched the documentary (Take Us Home: Leeds United) before I came and I saw some of the important matches in that (2019-20) season.

“But we obviously know that we need to win. Is it a must-win? No, but three points is massive and a minimum of one.

“We have to find a way to turn the momentum. We have two matches and this match can be the defining moment in the season, for sure.”

Leeds have recently buckled under the pressure, conceding early goals and having a man sent off in both of their previous two matches, which ended in respective 2-1 and 3-0 defeats to Arsenal and Chelsea.

Marsch said he had discussed the costly dismissals of Luke Ayling at Arsenal and Dan James in midweek against Chelsea – both straight red cards for reckless challenges – with his players.

“Whether it’s discipline or the pressure of the moment or that the players want to achieve so badly – it’s a combination of things,” he said.

“So certainly we know going into these last two matches we can’t afford to pick up any more red cards.”

Marsch insisted the early exits of Ayling and James were not borne out of dressing room discord or ill-discipline.

Dan James, centre left, is shown a straight red card during Leeds' midweek defeat to Chelsea
Dan James, centre left, is shown a straight red card during Leeds’ midweek defeat to Chelsea (Mike Egerton/PA)

“It’s not am I in control, it’s are we united and we’re totally unified,” he said.

“The yellow cards and fouls are not a reflection of a lack of discipline, they reflect a desire on the pitch.

“Of course, we know the two red cards crossed the line and that hurt us ultimately, but we’re aggressive and we want to go after the opponent.”

Marsch also insisted his players were not being “over-motivated” by him or his coaching staff.

He said: “Even the last team talk I gave before the Chelsea match was calm. I’ve tried to have my finger on the pulse of what the team needs at all moments.”

Relegation rivals Burnley, level on points with Leeds but with a game in hand and a vastly superior goal difference, kick off at Tottenham two hours before Marsch’s side on Sunday.

The 44-year-old American added: “We feel like we have to win the match regardless of Burnley’s result.

“They have a match to play as well on Thursday (at Aston Villa), so the most points we can pick up in this match will help our situation. Our focus is solely on winning the game.”