The Athletic’s Phil Hay has confirmed that Leeds United centre-back Diego Llorente will be missing from tonight’s Premier League clash against Newcastle.
Marcelo Bielsa’s side fell to a 3-0 defeat last time out against Liverpool, and while all the post-match talk was understandably dominated by the red card given to Pascal Struijk, the Whites suffered an equally worrying blow when Llorente was forced off injured.
Hay has now delivered an update on where things stand with the likes of Llorente, Struijk and Robin Koch ahead of Friday’s game against the Magpies at St James’ Park.
On Thursday, he tweeted: “Struijk, Robin Koch, Diego Llorente all out of tomorrow’s match at Newcastle. Bielsa still confident he has the resources to cope. Adam Forshaw should be back in contention next week. #lufc”
Given the kind of small, tight-knit squad that Bielsa has built up at Elland Road, news of Llorente’s injury could not have come at a worse time for the Whites.
Bielsa has already been without Koch, while Struijk’s red card and subsequent failed appeal means he will also miss the next couple of weeks of action.
Add Llorente’s absence into the mix and all of a sudden Leeds look short of real options in the middle of defence, and the Spaniard’s recent injury is something which came under some intense criticism from an injury prevention expert.
They told Football Insider: “That does not reflect well on Leeds or their staff. The job of the staff – the fitness, conditioning, sports science guys – is to get the players fit to play and keep them out there.
“There are some injuries you can’t legislate for, like the Harvey Elliott one today, but top athletes should not be breaking down with muscle injuries in the first half of matches.
“It means they are being overloaded in training, over-worked or not warming up and preparing properly. Something has gone wrong somewhere and Leeds will be embarrassed it has happened again to Llorente. Ultimately it is the manager’s decision on whether he thinks players are fit to play, and once they’re selected they should not be pulling hamstrings in the first half.”
Llorente’s absence from tonight’s game is a massive blow, especially when you consider how well he’s progressed after settling into life in English football last season.
Former Leeds striker Noel Whelan said: “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.”
Given just how important Llorente is to Leeds, as well as the lack of other alternative options available tonight, fans will be very worried about Hay’s latest injury update.