Marcelo Bielsa has confirmed Leeds will be without central defenders Robin Koch and Diego Llorente for Friday’s home game against West Ham – but is adamant they won’t sign another centre-half in the January window.
Germany centre-half Koch will be sidelined for around three months following a successful knee operation. His stand-in at Chelsea – Spain international Llorente – could be out for up to three weeks, Bielsa said.
Koch, who had surgery on Tuesday, had been playing with a knee injury since arriving from Freiburg in the summer. That though was damaged further in last week’s defeat at Chelsea.
Bielsa said: “The surgery went well and the length of Koch’s absence depends on the evolution. But he’s likely to be out for around three months.
“It’s a shame to miss him for such a period of time. However, during a season this is normal for injuries like this to happen to a team.”
Bielsa said Luke Ayling, Pascal Struijk, Kalvin Phillips and Gaetano Berardi, who is working his way back from a long-term knee injury, would provide sufficient cover in central defence.
“We’re not thinking of the possibility of bringing another centre-back into the team,” Bielsa added. “And apart from that we also expect to count on Berardi from February.”
Midfielders Pablo Hernandez (muscle strain) and Jamie Shackleton (thigh) have recovered from their respective injuries and will be available to face West Ham.
Bielsa names entire Leeds XI
Asked whether he would keep West Ham guessing about who would play centre-half alongside Cooper, the Leeds boss simply ‘no’ before naming his entire starting XI.
Reporter: Are you going to keep West Ham guessing?
Marcelo: No, here's my Starting XI… pic.twitter.com/xoCGD4JvyU
— Leeds United (@LUFC) December 9, 2020
The Leeds boss simply said: “Meslier; Dallas, Ayling, Cooper, Alioski; Phillips; Raphinha, Klich, Rodrigo, Harrison; Bamford.
That will mean a recall for Rodrigo in attack, with Ayling moving to centre-half. The versatile Stuart Dallas will switch to right-back to cover Ayling, with Gjanni Alioski continuing at left-back.