With the Premier League season winding down, Leeds United appear to be hitting a golden patch in form, sealing a 2-0 win over Southampton on Tuesday night.
Marcelo Bielsa’s side ran out as 4-0 winners against Burnley last time out in the Premier League, and made it a third win on the trot thanks to goals from Patrick Bamford and Tyler Roberts.
And while Bamford produced a superb display up top, scoring the opener and trying to press from the front, it was Diego Llorente’s first-half performance that really caught the eye.
The Spaniard was taken off at the break by Bielsa, but his display in the opening period really set the tone for Leeds in terms of dealing with the now unfamiliar experience of playing in front of fans again.
The Saints supporters were naturally up for it, and it was Llorente who was leading the charge from the back in trying to making his presence felt and ensure the Whites just didn’t fall apart.
As per Sofascore, Llorente won a mammoth ten duels on the night, which was by far the highest of any Leeds player, while he also chipped in with three tackles, one interception and one clearance.
The summer signing also looked to be the one to kick-start things going forward and building out from the back, trying to step out and break the lines with his passing.
Writing in his player ratings for Leeds Live, Beren Cross gave him a seven, saying: “One of the few to come away from the first half with a bit of credit in the bank. Was assertive and combative. Rose to the challenge of the energetic hosts and their supporters when the pressure really came on Leeds.”
Those sentiments were echoed by The Yorkshire Evening Post’s Graham Smyth, who also gave him a seven, adding: “Showed good aggression and reading of the game in the first half. Tried to get Leeds going with his passing. Replaced at the break by Bielsa.”
With reports in recent weeks claiming that Leeds are eyeing up a move for a new centre-back in the summer transfer window, with Sampdoria’s Omar Colley one of those names to be linked, Llorente just sent Bielsa a huge message.
With the likes of Liam Cooper, Robin Koch, Pascal Struijk and Luke Ayling all capable of playing at the back, it’s Llorente who should be the first name on the team-sheet next season even if a new defender comes in.
The Spaniard’s recent form has even raised arguments he should be partnering Sergio Ramos at international level for the EUROs this summer, and that’s a real testament to how much he has grown at Elland Road over the season.
His latest performance at Southampton once again reminded Bielsa that he should be helping to form the spine of any Leeds team going forward.
So while Bamford may steal the headlines for finding the net once again, it was Llorente who laid down the biggest marker on Tuesday night.