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Dominic Matteo names players Leeds will lose if relegated from Premier League


EXCLUSIVE: Leeds need to better Burnley’s result on the final day to stay up and former skipper Dominic Matteo has explained which players are most likely to leave the club if they do go down

Dominic Matteo made 115 Premier League appearances for Leeds between 2000 and 2004
Dominic Matteo made 115 Premier League appearances for Leeds between 2000 and 2004

Dominic Matteo knows what it feels like when the hurricane of relegation rips through a club.

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He was part of the firesale when Leeds last went down in 2004 and offloaded their best players to slash costs. Matteo was sold to Blackburn, even though he wanted to stay, and was followed through the Elland Road exit by stars like Alan Smith, Mark Viduka, Paul Robinson, James Milner and Danny Mills.

Matteo fears Leeds could lose their biggest names if they don’t beat the drop on Sunday and they must better Burnley ’s result or their two-year stint in the Premier League will be over. Raphinha and Kalvin Phillips are attracting interest from the likes of Barcelona and Manchester City respectively and Matteo says they could go if Leeds are relegated.

The former Leeds captain told Mirror Sport: “If you’re being realistic, it could happen. You have to be realistic, if they were to go down or even if they stayed up in 17th, would a top player be happy with that? Regardless of whether Leeds stay up or not, they could lose players. That’s the nature of the beast. I’m sure there are other clubs interested in their best players because they’ve got some good talent there, even among the young players. If they were to lose Raphinha and Phillips, would more follow? That’s what happened in my era.”

Leeds face Brentford away tomorrow while Burnley are at home to Newcastle and Matteo says the tension will be unbearable for Jesse Marsch’s players. He still remembers the anxiety he felt before beating Arsenal in 2003 to stay up, although it only postponed their fate for 12 months. “We were lucky to get out of it in 2003 with that late goal at Highbury,” he said. “That was a very similar feeling to what the players are going through at the moment.

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Leeds attacking midfielder Raphinha has been consistently linked with a move to La Liga giants Barcelona
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“I just couldn’t sleep the night before that game. I was up all night. You go over all the scenarios in your head, you go through every emotion before the game is even played. Even as an experienced player, I was still going through all that. I will never forget that feeling of relief when we stayed up, but it was followed the following year by going down. It’s not a good memory, being relegated. You never want that on your CV, but it happened and being honest it was only when Leeds got back into the Premier League, that I felt right again.”

Matteo, 48, still believes Leeds can pull of an escape act on the final day at Burnley’s expense. “I never thought I would be relegated at Leeds because I felt we had a strong enough team,” he said. “But that means nothing, we know how brutal the Premier League is. Our experience showed that if you take your foot off the pedal in the Premier League, it just punishes you.

“We’ve seen that this season with Leeds and it’s been a difficult watch. When we stayed up in 2003, we just found a way to win and that’s what Leeds have got to do on Sunday, just find a way. I don’t know how, but they’ve got to find a way. I said at the start of the season that Burnley might go down and I’m sticking by that. It’s a difficult situation, but I think Leeds might just survive.”

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