Leeds manager Marcelo Bielsa insists Pascal Struijk can consider himself hugely unfortunate to be serving a three-match ban after claiming once again the defender had no intention to make contact with stricken Liverpool star Harvey Elliott.
The Whites have endured a sticky start to the season, drawing with Everton and Burnley, but being picked off at ease by Manchester United and Liverpool. However, they travel to Newcastle on Friday night for a crucial match looking to get that winning feeling back.
Their plans for the game, though, have been set back after seeing Struijk lose his appeal to have his red-card overturned. The centre-half saw red retrospectively following the serious injury sustained by Elliott. And despite Struijk receiving the backing of Elliott himself, the FA decided to stand by Craig Pawson’s verdict.
As a result, he will now serve a three-match ban, starting at St James’ Park.
Asked for his thoughts on the ban, the Leeds boss was quick to defend Struijk.
“After the game I commented, Pascal didn’t have any intention to hurt the opponent. His intentions were different to the injury that was produced and he didn’t have bad intentions. It’s exactly the same thing the injured player said,” Bielsa said in a press conference, via Leeds Live.
“Those things are very fine margins in the rules, what I can tell you with security is what I saw in the game. That what happened it was impossible to anticipate when a player completes a successful recovery of the ball. To say in another way, the majority of the plays that are similar to this one don’t generate the consequences this one generated. That’s why the injured player admits there was no bad intention.
“I understand those that judge and decide have different arguments to the ones I’ve spoken about and the ones the injured player has spoken about. It is their arguments that decide the outcome. It’s good that it’s this way. What would be useful is to receive information which gave an explanation how to avoid these casual things from generating an injury.
Bielsa's Leeds will be confident of win at Newcastle
Despite a winless start to the season, Leeds will travel to St James' Park confident of a good result
“Footballers said it, those that said it from close said it, there was no bad intention. It was a casualty that just happened. So it would be very useful for all of us that it’s explained how to avoid the consequences, the circumstances with no intention how to avoid them. Clearly they are punished. And the excessive use of the strength, the imprudence in the decision taken by Pascal shouldn’t be considered to analyse this action.
“This action, it wasn’t an imprudent use of [force]. Pascal acted with exuberance that belongs to the game and the consequences of what happened linked more to it being a casual event rather than his intentions.
“It wasn’t possible to calculate that the attempt Pascal made to recover the ball, would generate the injury that happened. What is clear is what I’ve said is different, to what those who judge interpreted.
“We should be guided by the thoughts of those who decide, not by me. To hope to receive an explanation is perhaps excessive, but it would help to improve the decision-making of the players.
“There is also a very simple exercise. To compare all the identical actions that don’t generate the consequence and the amount of similar actions that don’t have the same consequence.
“They’re not even punished with a foul, like in this case. After a casual situation like this, which causes an injury, I accept it. But I would like to hear an explanation.”
Leeds United team news
Struijk’s enforced absence gives Leeds a selection headache with fellow centre-halves Robin Koch and Diego Llorente also sidelined.
Bielsa has confirmed that Llorente will not be considered for Newcastle. That’s despite the defender himself insisting earlier in the week his injury was not serious.
It will likely mean Leeds will start with Luke Ayling alongside Liam Cooper at the heart of defence. Another option to Leeds is untried U23s defender Charlie Cresswell.
Ayling’s inclusion in central defence though will present another issue at right-back.
Bielsa, however, has confirmed Patrick Bamford is fit to play despite doubts he was suffering from a hamstring problem.