Marcelo Bielsa has confirmed star man Pablo Hernandez is doubtful against Derby on Friday, while left-back Barry Douglas faces two to three weeks on the sidelines.
The Whites, who sit top of the Championship despite losing their last two league matches, already have one of the smallest squads in the division and Chelsea’s decision to recall Lewis Baker midway through the arrangement – a decision for which Bielsa feels partly responsible – further reduces their options.
The Whites can get their promotion push back on track against Frank Lampard’s Derby™️ on Friday night – but it looks like they will have to do so without Hernandez, who looks has emerged as an injury doubt.
“He could play on Friday. I can’t say 100 per cent that he won’t play,” Bielsa told a media conference on Friday. “If there is a small chance, I wouldn’t like to take any risk with him. If it was up to him I think he would play.”
Bielsa confirmed Tyler Roberts will play at number 10 if Hernandez isn’t fit.
“Roberts will play (no 10) if Hernandez does not,” he added. “Against QPR he had three chances to score which is very good for a number 10. But he didn’t build the offensive play which could have helped the attacks. Pablo builds the attacks whilst Roberts focuses on finishing the attacks.”
Leeds, however, could be boosted by the return of Liam Cooper after more than a month on the sidelines and Bielsa hopes his presence will hope with the club’s irritating habit of conceding so many goals from set pieces lately.
“He is in good condition to come back to the first team,” he said of the Leeds captain. “He has a very good first pass, he is good with the aerial balls, he is our captain and he deserves to be our captain. When he plays he makes the team stronger.”
Bielsa added that both Kemar Roofe and Pontus Jansson had minor fitness issues last week but are fully recovered, while Mateusz Klich is also in line for a recall after being rested for the FA Cup defeat at QPR.
Leeds put in arguably their best performance of the season in beating Derby 4-1 at Pride Park back in August, but Bielsa expects a very different and tighter game.
“Derby are not the same side now,” he commented. “We need to win the game because was lost the last two Championship and we’re playing a team who could be going up.
“The problems the team has are not an excuse not to win the game. Douglas and Pablo are missing and we can find a solution for both positions,” he concluded.
Get the latest personalised Whites products on our new TEAMtalk Leeds United shop!