Daniel Stendel believes Leeds United are the best team in the Championship but thinks his Barnsley players are ready to beat them in the 12.30pm kick-off on Sunday. 

Leeds are currently third in the league with 13 points, eight more than fourth-bottom Barnsley who collected five from their first six fixtures.  Head coach Stendel told the Chronicle: “I expect a great atmosphere and a full stadium. It’s a big game and a big derby.

"My feeling is that Leeds are the best team in the league, from what we have seen in the first six games.  They might not have the best player in the league in every position but, as a team with their style of play, I think they are the best. 

“It is the kind of game we want to play in and it’s a big chance for us.  With our supporters, in a home game, we have a chance to surprise them. Our goal is to win this game.  We want to give Leeds a big fight. 

“I want the supporters to have the feeling that we are fighting for every duel and giving everything for them and for the club. When we can show this, we have a big chance. 

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“I cannot promise that we win but I can promise that we play with all our energy, all our heart and give everything that we can give.” 

Barnsley lost their 29-game unbeaten run in league games at Oakwell when they were beaten 3-1 by to Luton Town in their last home match. Sunday’s visitors are expected to bring several thousand fans to Oakwell, where they have lost five of their last seven games.  But Leeds have won four of the last five meetings including a double over their near neighbours in the 2017/18 season. 

United are managed by Marcelo Bielsa who was previously in charge of the Argentina national team as well as Athletic Bilbao, Marseille and Lazio.  He is famous for his tactical innovations as well as meticulous preparation for opponents, while he has inspired a generation of coaches including Tottenham Hotspur boss Mauricio Pochettino and Manchester City’s Pep Guardiola.  He is aiming for promotion to the Premier League having finished third in his first season before losing to Derby County in the play-off semi-finals. 

Stendel said: “He is a manager with big experience and a lot of success. At the moment, I think only about our game and our team. On Sunday morning, maybe I think more about Bielsa. If it is ‘Stendel against Bielsa’ then it is a great chance for me.” 

Barnsley’s only win this season came on the opening day against Fulham who, like Leeds, are expected by many to compete for a place in the Premier League this season. Stendel said: “Fulham was a special situation, they had been relegated from the Premier League and it was their first game. Leeds have been in the Championship for many years and they know what to expect from a derby game against Barnsley.” 

The Reds drew their final game before the international break 0-0 at Wigan Athletic, despite having eight first team regulars out with injury.  Stendel has since had 15 days without a game to work with a squad that contains 12 summer signings.  He used that break to give his squad some time off then to focus in training on returning to the high-energy style which helped them to promotion from League One. 

Stendel said: “It is good to have a short break and every player had four days off to collect their energy for the next games. It was good for the players and for me. We have been concentrating in training on playing our game and the feeling has been really good.

“We spoke after the last game in Wigan about what we want to do. We want to play our game more and with more confidence. We know it’s a difficult league but I want us to play with more courage. 

“We won’t win every game but I want us to have the chance to win the games more. Wigan was a good start because we had so many players injured and we didn’t have our best quality players on the pitch but we showed a very good mentality and created chances. 

“We all know we need time to adapt to this league but my feeling in training this week has been very good. The games in September are all big games for us. I told the players that when I have the feeling that we have played our game, it is really good when we win like against Fulham but, even when we don’t win like against Wigan, we are disappointed but the feeling is so much better than the games before.”  

During the break, Stendel took the players paintballing as a team-bonding session. He said: “It is good we do things away from the pitch and the players see each other in different environments. It was a good time and a little bit painful.”