Leeds United are currently in the middle of a huge defensive crisis after Liam Cooper picked up an injury against Manchester United. He joins Robin Koch on the sidelines ahead of their clash with Burnley at the weekend.
Speaking to Lancashire Live, Marcelo Bielsa has confirmed that Diego Llorente will return to training ahead of the Elland Road clash, but there is no guarantee that he will start.
Pascal Struijk, Leif Davies and 20-year-old Oliver Casey are currently the only central options the boss has to choose from unless he dips into the youth team.
The former came on in place of Kalvin Phillips in midfield last time out, but Bielsa now has no other choice but to deploy him in his natural position in defence.
Despite being an excellent option to select, Struijk has made just three Premier League starts so far, tallying five appearances in total this season.
However, his absence is not something that’s new. Since joining the club’s youth ranks in 2018, the Dutchman has made a total of 11 appearances for the Whites, as per Transfermarkt.
In the absence of key players like Koch and Cooper, now could be the perfect opportunity for Struijk to show his worth at the Yorkshire outfit. It would be a huge confidence boost for the £25k-per-week workhorse, but it will also resurrect team morale following their lofty 6-2 defeat to Man United.
According to MOT Leeds News, Paul Robinson has expressed his concern over Leeds’ injury worries. He described the loss of captain Cooper as a “massive blow” that would “cripple any team”.
Indeed, the Whites will be fearful of Burnley’s star striker Chris Wood, who could seriously trouble their backline on Sunday. They should know all too well about his abilities.
Bielsa has been deploying Luke Ayling in the middle of the defence recently, but to maximise his chances of coming away with a result, the Argentinian needs to put faith in Struijk.
The 21-year-old could be vital against Burnley, allowing Ayling to perform more comfortably in his natural role at right-back.