Leeds United boss Marcelo Bielsa has been handed a timely injury boost ahead of his side’s clash with Burnley in the Premier League on Sunday afternoon…
What’s the latest?
The Yorkshire giants have endured quite the nightmare start to the 2021/22 campaign, largely due to persistent and mounting injuries causing somewhat of a crisis at Thorp Arch.
They have not played for nearly two weeks now, with their last outing being a 4-1 defeat to Arsenal, where Bielsa was missing as many as 11 players through injury. It’s been so bad that 15-year-old Archie Gray has been named amongst the substitutes, as a result.
However, the 66-year-old Argentinian appears to be closer to having at least three of those players back for this weekend’s fixture at Elland Road.
Will Leeds avoid a relegation battle in 2022?
According to LeedsLive reporter Beren Cross, United may see the returns of leading striker Patrick Bamford, central defensive colossus Pascal Struijk and club-record signing Daniel James.
“In his last press conference, we did at least finally get some degree of insight into who may be closer than others. Bamford, Struijk and James seemed to have the best chance of making the Liverpool game, so with another week’s rest, we have to hope that trio will be in the reckoning,” he suggested in a recent Q&A with supporters.
A combination of recent postponements and inconsistent form has seen United slip down to a perilous position. Bielsa’s men occupy 16th place and are only five points above the relegation zone, at pretty much the halfway point of the season.
It’s a worrying sign ahead of the second half of the campaign, especially as they were bordering on a place in Europe last year.
But evidently, there have been some mitigating factors as to why Leeds are where they are. As many as nine of those 11 missing last time out were first-team players, largely regulars who would be the first names on the team sheet.
The likes of vice-skipper Luke Ayling and the rarely-seen Robin Koch had to start despite being on the treatment table themselves for the past few months, not only risking further setbacks but you can’t imagine they are in any sort of match form or fitness.
Bamford and James will add some bite to a fairly feeble attack. Only four teams have scored fewer goals than Leeds, two of which are in the drop zone, whilst Struijk’s potential involvement alleviates some of Bielsa’s worrying defensive crisis.
Therefore, he will surely be absolutely delighted – if not hugely relieved – to have had extra time to rest ahead of what is surely a crunch match. The Yorkshiremen can go eight points clear of the Clarets, and subsequently the bottom three, with a win.
Having these three players back will seriously bolster their chances of that result happening, so everyone around Elland Road must be encouraged.