Leeds United

Leeds United

Premier League • England

Jesse Marsch press conference: Leeds boss provides Liam Cooper lift as Luke Ayling is defended over red-card woe

Jesse Marsch, Leeds United manager addresses the media presser - pic via LUFCTV

Leeds manager Jesse Marsch is hopeful that Liam Cooper will be fit to take his place in the side in Wednesday’s vital Premier League clash against Chelsea at Elland Road.

The Leeds skipper has missed the last two games – defeats to Manchester City and Arsenal – with a niggling knee injury. Those two defeats have seen Leeds drop into the bottom three. And they now face three vital matches to help salvage their Premier League futures.

First up, is a meeting with FA Cup finalists Chelsea at Elland Road. Leeds United will be looking to take something from the match – and their prospects will be aided by the return of Cooper.

He looks sure to take his place back in the heart of defence with Marsch providing a positive outlook on Tuesday.

“Liam Cooper last time I said he would be ready,” Marsch explained. “He trained the day before and had small reaction leading to the match and we felt it was prudent he not push himself with the possibility we could lose him.

“I believe, he trained a bit yesterday, after that and now into this next phase he is better. I believe he will be available. It’s day by day.”

Leeds have also long been without star striker Patrick Bamford and he too is edging closer to a comeback.

He has always maintained he would push to return if Leeds needed him this season. And while he won’t be ready for Wednesday, Leeds will monitor him ahead of the clash with Brighton on Sunday.

“Bamford [is doing] individual work on the grass, hopefully team work by the end of the week. We’re monitoring him and he’s on track. See what that means moving forward. Rest of the squad is all the same.”

Marsch provides Luke Ayling defence

One man Leeds must do without on Wednesday, and for the remainder of the season, is full-back Luke Ayling.

He was sent off for an ugly lunge on Gabriel Martinelli at Emirates Stadium and now sits out the remainder of their games.

Ayling himself offered an apology to his teammates in the aftermath of his dismissal. And that appears good enough for Marsch, who has offered a defence of the player following his season-ending red card.

Asked about Leeds’ ill-discipline in general this season, Marsch was quick to defend his players.

“Might say that about Ayling too. Luke as much as people want to draw stories about what the last years have been here, Luke’s story is as much a definition of what this club has become,” Marsch explained. “Kalvin [Phillips], Liam and Stuart [Dallas] too. They grew under [Marcelo] Bielsa.

“He helped this club come up again. For me, Luke Ayling defines heart, fight, hard work, mentality, dedication and defines what we want to be.

“In one situation he jeopardises all he has invested. Think how it hurts us a team, but more about how it hurts Luke. He’s not available. He’s massively important for the group being strong and together. We need to sticking together, not finger pointing.”

Leeds, meanwhile, are seemingly looking to raid Wednesday’s opponents Chelsea this summer for one of their young centre-halves.