Leeds boss Marcelo Bielsa admits United have missed the presence of Patrick Bamford in attack – and concedes he does not know when the striker will be available to return from his problematic ankle injury.
The England striker sustained the problem in the 1-1 draw at Newcastle on 17 September – and has not been seen since. The loss of their star striker has badly hindered Leeds, who have just one Premier League win to their name this season. And last season’s top scorer has again been ruled out against Norwich on Sunday – and Bielsa does not know when he will return.
“There is no precise return date for the injuries of [Luke] Ayling, Bamford and [Robin] Koch,” Bielsa explained.
In his absence, Leeds have started with record signing Rodrigo Moreno up front. He has one goal – a penalty against Wolves last week – to his name, and Bielsa admits their threat up front has dipped in Bamford’s absence.
“This is a question that to answer properly would need 10 minutes,” Bielsa said when asked how Bamford‘s loss affected Leeds. “If you listen to my previous answers on this subject you will see the answers I have made. I always try to give conclusions upon reflection.
“We have clearly lowered the amount of dangerous chances created. Of course Bamford was here his presence would be valued, but our drop is not linked to him.”
Asked when Bamford and Ayling may return, Bielsa was giving little away.
“They can’t be calculated exactly, they’re all subject to their evolution. They have a margin for their recovery that is very flexible and very big,” the Argentine commented.
One man who has impressed lately is teenage forward Joe Gelhardt. Our feature on him last November labelled him “the bargain of a lifetime”.
Now, having won the penalty against Wolves and impressed against Arsenal in the Carabao Cup, many feel he’s ready for a start.
When asked if Gelhardt could start at Carrow Road, however, Bielsa was staying cagey.
“These are things you can’t calculate. We have to go evaluating his participations, his interventions in the games,” Bielsa explained.
“There is an important question to ask ourselves to resolve this: the player that’s coming in, being young especially, does he do it to resolve the needs of the team or if he comes on for a team dominating and needs a few touches.
“If we compare the game against Wolverhampton, he came on in a team that was dominating and needed some corrections. He managed to achieve it.
“If we compare his second half vs Arsenal, he came on for a team that was not dominating. However, he couldn’t change the course of the game by himself as is natural. The precisions you are demanding cannot be answered easily.”
In better news for Leeds, Bielsa did reveal that both Kalvin Phillips and Raphinha would be fit to start.
Bielsa wary of Norwich
Leeds face a Norwich side who are bottom of the table and winless so far. They are also coming into this one off the back of a 7-0 trouncing at Chelsea.
Asked if that heavy loss will impact their plans to face Leeds, Bielsa had a firm answer.
“A team, when they lose so heavily, multiply their efforts so a similar defeat does not happen in their next game.
“All of these evaluations are not necessary though because every game in itself is difficult. That’s because everything in play [during a game] and because our reality obliges us more than ever, independent of how the opponent feels.
“Any other team will require the same analysis because it’s the Premier League and our reality at the moment.”