The Athletic’s Phil Hay has dropped a late Leeds United injury blow ahead of the club’s Premier League game against Everton on Saturday afternoon.
Marcelo Bielsa’s side were soundly beaten by Manchester United last time out and will no doubt be hoping to get their campaign back on track immediately with their first game at Elland Road this season.
However, they will have to do so once again without the services of Spain international Diego Llorente. In a pre-match discussion hosted by The Athletic on Saturday morning, Hay delivered some worrying news on the centre-back ahead of the clash today.
He said: “Llorente won’t play today – he hasn’t fully recovered from his muscle strain. Bielsa said on Thursday he expects him to be back next week.”
The journalist added: “Llorente has suddenly become a very big player for Leeds. I thought he was the best of the centre-backs last season once he got going and him missing didn’t help at Old Trafford.”
Llorente emerged as a cornerstone of Leeds’ defence in the final few weeks of last season, starting 13 of the last 14 games in the Premier League and coming up with some big performances, not least netting a late equaliser against Liverpool.
As per WhoScored, he averaged an impressive match rating of 6.90, marking him out as the Whites’ second-best centre-back after Liam Cooper, who was also the only player at the club to win more headers per game than Llorente’s 2.2.
As Hay himself says, the Spaniard emerged as a key player for Leeds despite his early troubles with injury in his debut campaign at Elland Road, and last week the Whites saw firsthand the kind of impact his absence can have.
Bielsa is likely to rely on a partnership of Cooper and Pascal Struijk once again, despite seeing them carved open numerous times at Old Trafford.
Hay’s late update is sure to worry Leeds fans ahead of the game against Everton at Elland Road this afternoon.
Meanwhile, Bielsa must start this Leeds star today…