Marcelo Bielsa has defended his decision to rule Kalvin Phillips out of Saturday’s game with Aston Villa, explaining why Leeds will treat his prospective return with caution.
In his absence, Leeds lost at both Arsenal and Wolves, but bounced back with a 3-0 win over Southampton on Tuesday.
However, his midfield partner Mateusz Klich is also a doubt to face Aston Villa on Saturday. It’s a problem that could leave Leeds very light in the central midfield area.
Bielsa, however, insists Leeds are right to treat Phillips with caution. He stated ahead of the Arsenal game that the player could feature. That stance was repeated ahead of Wolves. He was then ruled out against Saints and now versus Villa.
Explaining why he’d previously said he could return, Bielsa insists Leeds don’t want to risk Phillips facing a longer lay-off.
“There is a phrase I try to use frequently,” he said. “There is a phrase that is made up that states that the player will return subject to his evolution. When he got injured, like I told you, he had the options of having a quicker return, but his injury is in his calf.
“It’s a place where we have to avoid. He has a recurrence because the recurrence makes the situation worse. So we’re being very cautious so when he returns, he returns for definite.”
One other star on course to soon return is Robin Koch. The German has been sidelined since the defeat to Chelsea in early December.
Having gone under the knife, Koch was expected to return to training by March.
Providing an update on his fitness, Bielsa claims Koch is right on course.
“He’s within the margins that were expected,” Bielsa said. “Koch is a player who’s very optimistic, very happy, very hard working and also very serious in taking after his responsibilities. I have a thought he’s going to be back with the same type of power and performance as he had prior to his injury.”
Harrison offered Bielsa support
Jack Harrison, meanwhile, has been assured of his importance to Leeds after being substituted in early in their last three games.
The winger has been in fine form this season, but now finds his place under threat from Helder Costa. The Portuguese winger impressed off the bench against Southampton.
Bielsa though insists Harrison has no need to worry and says his mental strength will ensure he won’t lose confidence.
“Harrison is a very strong player mentally,” Bielsa said. “He’s a very dedicated professional and on occasions, as with all the players, I maintain a dialogue with him when I see fit.”
Asked if Leeds are targeting a top-10 finish, Bielsa insists the club would deal with the task one game at a time.
“The goal is always to resolve the next game. To resolve the next game, normally makes you maintain your position or to improve it. Of course, we hope to play sufficiently well to deserve to win. In the case we get a positive result we will see how it reflects on the table.”