Robin Koch appears poised to return to action sooner than expected on Saturday against Arsenal as Leeds’ injury crisis deepens.
Marcelo Bielsa will be without eight first-team players as his side bid to bounce back from the Manchester City mauling. But the Leeds boss confirmed Germany defender Koch, sidelined since the opening-day defeat at Manchester United due to a pelvic issue and then illness, was among his dwindling options.
When asked if Koch was ready for Premier League football, Bielsa said: “It’s not an evaluation that we’ve made just yet.
“(Luke) Ayling came back (from injury) to play as a starter after playing 45 minutes with the under-23s. Koch has accumulated training sessions here that are sufficient.”
Dan James (thigh) and Jamie Shackleton (Achilles) were added to Leeds’ debilitating injury list after they were withdrawn in midweek at the Etihad Stadium.
Kalvin Phillips, Patrick Bamford, Liam Cooper (all hamstring), Rodrigo (heel) and Pascal Struijk (foot) were absent against City and remain sidelined, while Junior Firpo misses out against Arsenal due to a one-game ban.
Manchester United scouting Leeds' Illan Mesiler
Manchester United sent scouts to watch Leeds goalkeeper Illan Meslier who’s viewed as a potential long term replacement for David de Gea.
Bielsa stressed he was not opposed to the idea of team strengthening in January. However, he clearly feels Leeds have spent enough on players during his time at Elland Road.
“The club has invested £130million in the construction of this squad, and I don’t know if they can or can’t invest more,” he said.
Bielsa has no plans for loan recalls
Leeds have failed to reproduce the form which saw them finish ninth in their first season back in the top flight. Bielsa has refused to blame their struggles on a heavily depleted squad.
The Argentinian sent 10 players out on loan in the summer. The list includes Helder Costa, Leif Davis, Kun Temenuzhkov, Alfie McCalmont, Ryan Edmondson and Mateusz Bogusz.
Another, Ian Poveda, is recovering from a fractured fibula and ankle ligament damage. He sustained the injuries in November while on loan at Blackburn.
Bielsa said he would only consider recalling any of his on-loan players if they had sufficiently improved.
“The players we kept (in the summer) were in better conditions than the ones we loaned out to resolve our needs,” he said.
“So what we have to verify is if there has been an evolution in them outside the club. That allows us to see that proportion has changed.”