The Yorkshire giants have to better Burnley‘s result today to remain a top-flight outfit and that’s no easy task as they head to west London to face Brentford, whilst the Clarets face Newcastle United at Turf Moor.
Jesse Marsch’s side have stuttered in recent outings, picking up only two points from a possible 15, though the American has been boosted by the potential return of last season’s leading talisman, Patrick Bamford.
As relayed by The Athletic’s Phil Hay, the England striker is expected to be involved in some form this afternoon. And whilst his presence will certainly bolster their fortunes in the final third, where they have struggled all season, he will not fix their defensive issues.
Indeed, the Whites have one of the worst backlines in the division, having leaked a whopping 78 goals from 37 outings. Only rock-bottom Norwich City (79) have conceded more.
Their opposition today have been in fine form, losing only one of their last five matches, and with the likes of Ivan Toney, Bryan Mbeumo and Christian Eriksen available, they could do Leeds plenty of damage.
As such, Marsch will need to make a bold call with his defence. It could be wise to bring Pascal Struijk back into the fold as the versatile colossus can play in the middle, on the left or in defensive midfield.
Once described as a “monster” by journalist Daniel Fraiz-Martinez, the Belgian-born defender has proven to be one of Leeds’ more busy and solid options, having averaged 2.2 tackles per game, a feat that neither Liam Cooper nor Diego Llorente can match.
Whilst a further average of 1.2 interceptions and a squad-best passing accuracy of 85.1%, via WhoScored, only further builds his claims to start in Norfolk today.
If anything, the 6 foot 3 titan should be rewarded for his injury-time equaliser last weekend, another fine reason why he should be in the starting lineup as he also provides threat from set-pieces – at both ends of the pitch.
“He’s going to become a supreme centre-back,” once suggested LeedsLive reporter Beren Cross.
“It’s all about Raphinha, it’s all about Joe Gelhardt. But Pascal is the future. And the longer he stays under the radar, the better, because he’s got the lot, to be honest.”
The £13.5m-rated man-mountain could be the one to guide Leeds towards safety and whilst Bamford’s return is encouraging, there’s no way of knowing just how much game time he can manage after playing only 100 competitive minutes since early December.
Struijk’s presence in the backline should, at least, help Leeds defensively and if they are keeping the Bees out, then they’ll only need to score to boost their bid to stay in the big time.
He simply must start in Marsch’s backline today.