Leeds United are finally back in Premier League action after an extended break following a pair of postponements and players heading out on international duty, and they return to Elland Road to host Aston Villa this afternoon.
The time off the pitch has done the American head coach plenty of good as he’s able to welcome back several stars from the treatment table, none bigger than leading talisman Patrick Bamford.
He must now start this encounter in a bid to get the Whites’ season back on track.
Bamford has struggled with injuries over the last 18 months, resulting in only 13 appearances in the English top-flight since the start of the 2021/22 campaign and his absence has been sorely missed.
The 29-year-old’s presence up top is needed more than ever, having finished the 2020/21 season as their top goalscorer on 17 goals, no one has gotten close to matching that or even looking like they will.
Rodrigo had started the season in fine form but he too picked up an injury and whilst fit for today’s encounter, it’s Bamford who is the usual and first-choice no.9.
Right before the international break, the Englishman was able to get some valuable minutes in the tank, playing for the U21s, and even netted a hat-trick against Southampton ‘B’ during their 6-2 win in the Premier League 2.
“He’s massively important for us. In every moment he’s been on the pitch from pre-season until now he scored goals, he’s been dangerous, he gets chances,” Marsch said of Bamford ahead of today’s game (via LeedsLive). “So obviously in the Premier League goals are at a premium and I think we will we will need him and we will need him to be at his best.”
Indeed, few players have the same quality as Bamford in the final third. The £35k-per-week marksman could well take advantage of not just a struggling Villa side but one dealing with their own injuries in defence – marquee signing Diego Carlos and full-backs Matty Cash and Lucas Digne are all out.
The talismanic striker, once lauded as a “goal machine” by journalist Sam McGuire, must therefore be unleashed from the off at Elland Road this afternoon.
Marsch would be foolish to not risk the forward, seeing as they are now winless in three games and are in need of that spark to reignite their campaign.