Marcelo Bielsa refused to commit when pushed on whether Patrick Bamford will come straight into the starting eleven against Brentford on Sunday, though did at least confirm the striker is once again available.
Leeds United have been without their first choice centre-forward since he suffered an ankle injury against Newcastle in September. In Bamford’s absence, the Whites have toiled in the final third, often relying on individual brilliance from Raphinha to scrape points here and there.
Thankfully for Leeds fans, Bielsa confirmed Bamford – along with Luke Ayling – are in contention to feature against Brentford on Sunday.
Speaking in his Friday press conference (via Leeds Live), Bielsa said of the pair: “It’s likely they will be available for the game on Sunday.”
However, when pressed on whether Bamford will be thrust straight back into the starting line-up, Bielsa refused to commit.
“To be available and healthy is the first step for a player who has been without competition for two months,” said Bielsa. “Nobody just through their presence guarantees performance.
“The acquiring of a fitness level, a sporting level prior to being healthy, and trained, the sense a player can be healthy and fit, but the adaptation to the competition is something different. Sometimes that process is accelerated or takes longer.
“Considering the particularities of each player and also the needs of the team. Sometimes the sporting reality of a team means a player returns quicker. Managing all of that depends on a lot of factors and I cannot offer you a precise conclusion.
“He was a player who scored one goal every two games shows us what we need about his importance. Even when he does not score, he is a an important part of the way the team functions.”
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Pascal Struijk had added to the club’s injury woes against Crystal Palace last time out. The defender was substituted at half-time with a hip knock, though Bielsa suggested he could recover in time to feature versus the Bees.
“We think he will be available for the game on Sunday,” said Bielsa. “He has a knock around his hip, but we think he will be available.”
Attention turned to the significance of the clash with Brentford on Sunday given the daunting fixture list that follows.
After squaring off against the Bees on Sunday, Leeds then face Chelsea, Manchester City, Arsenal and Liverpool.
When asked if picking up three points versus Brentford is therefore extra significant, Bielsa refused to ramp up the pressure on his side.
He said: “To win consecutively fortifies you. When we focus on every game independent of who comes next, given the amount of fixtures we have played up to now, the points we have on the board are few and every fixture is an opportunity to balance our numbers.”
Bielsa surprised by fearless Brentford tactic
On the subject of Brentford’s playing style, Bielsa admitted to surprise at the sheer weight of numbers they throw forward with each attack.
“Well, so far Brentford have shown to be a different team in the Premier League, said the Leeds boss. “The most significant thing, the most novel thing I have seen is the amount of elements they attack with. The management they have of the ball in all sectors of the pitch.”
When asked for a second time about Brentford and the strengths of Thomas Frank’s side, the Argentine added: “What I said beforehand applies to this question.
“A team that always attacks with six players, they have a genuine rush to be protagonists. They always try to keep the ball.
“This type of description coincides with what Brentford is. I say this not just to give a nice answer, but you can verify it.
“Anyone who has seen Brentford play this season can see they want to attack with six and keep the ball. That’s not common in any league. Even more so when that said team is not within the most prestigious teams in the league.”