This weekend Leeds United take on Nottingham Forest in a huge Championship promotion clash. Forest, who were the first team to take points off Leeds this season, are just four points behind faltering Leeds in fourth place and the West Yorkshire side desperately need a win to open up an automatic promotion gap again.
One of the key reasons for Forest’s success has been the form of their new goalkeeper, a player that Leeds United boss Marcelo Bielsa will know very well.
Forest snapped up Brice Samba for a fee reportedly (transfermarkt) worth around £1.8 million from Caen in the summer.
In fact, his first game after becoming a Forest player was the previous meeting between the two sides, but he sat on the bench at Elland Road.
He soon took over from Arijanet Muric as the number one stopper at the City Ground and has become a key player since, with some arguing he might be the best goalkeeper in the Championship this season.
Bielsa knows all too well what Samba is capable of as the pair worked together in the 2014-15 season at Marseille. The young stopper was Marseille’s second-choice stopper during Bielsa’s stint at the Stade Velodrome, behind club captain Steve Mandanda, playing twice in cup fixtures.
Samba was eventually loaned out to Nancy by Bielsa at the start of the 2015-16 campaign, but would not work with the Argentine again. Bielsa left Marseille early on in the season. It was a departure which Samba was disappointed with, as he explained to L’Est Republicain.
“Bielsa, he is not crazy as journalists say, but he is in his world. That of football.
“He’s a bit like a teacher, sometimes he would take a chair, a table and talk to us. I progressed with him like many other players. It is true that the off-season had been very peculiar, his return was delayed and above all he had not extended (his contract). But it was impossible to imagine what was going to happen.”
This weekend, Samba will be doing everything in his power to keep Bielsa’s Leeds side at bay. Considering Leeds’ recent wastefulness in front of goal, coming up against a keeper of Samba’s level is not currently ideal.
But hopefully, Bielsa has some inside knowledge that can help Leeds get the better of his former student.