After not playing for a couple of weeks over the Christmas period, Leeds United are finally back in action when they take on Burnley at Elland Road on Sunday afternoon.
Marcelo Bielsa’s side’s last Premier League outing came when they were beaten comprehensively by Arsenal in mid-December, and they face a Clarets outfit who are also in a perilous position near the bottom of the table.
The Whites were handed a significant boost ahead of the game, though, with Bielsa confirming that centre-back Diego Llorente is fit and available again for selection. If he comes through any late fitness checks, he surely must start against Sean Dyche’s side.
The “imperious” Spaniard became a regular in Leeds’ defence in the final few weeks of the 2020/21 season, starting 13 of the last 14 games in the top flight and coming up with some impressive performances, not least netting a late equaliser against Liverpool.
He earned a WhoScored match rating of 6.90 for that campaign, which marked him out as the Whites’ second-best centre-back after Cooper, who was also the only player at the club to win more headers per game than Llorente’s 2.2.
Former Leeds striker Noel Whelan raved: “He looked every bit that leader and that quality centre-half that we were all expecting when he signed for the football club. There was great excitement about him it took a long time to get to see him consistently.
“But when we did, we saw him grow and grow and grow. We saw him get stronger and better as the games went on. If you ask any Leeds United fan who watched him in that second part of the season and ask them who would be the first centre-half on the team sheet, they would say Llorente.”
With the Whites shipping an abysmal 11 goals in their past two Premier League games – albeit against Manchester City and Arsenal – having Llorente back could go a long way to restoring a bit of calm and composure in defence.
The £16.2m-rated ace could well be the game-changing return in defence which swings things back in Leeds’ favour heading into tomorrow’s clash against Burnley.