Marcelo Bielsa has confirmed that Kalvin Phillips will remain on the sidelines for Tuesday’s visit of Southampton to Elland Road – but has named the player he “believes in” to fill the void.
Bielsa’s side have done well on their return to the Premier League, but have struggled whenever Phillips misses out. The England star has missed their last two games due to a combination of fitness issues and personal reasons. And in both those matches, Leeds have suffered defeats at Arsenal and Wolves.
Speaking in his press conference to preview Tuesday evening’s match with Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side, Bielsa confirmed the England star would again miss out.
“Kalvin still has a muscular problem in his calf. He’s not available for tomorrow’s game. Rodrigo [is] also [missing still].
“But [Diego] Llorente is back. [Gaetano] Berardi is evolving, the same as [Ian] Poveda. [Adam] Forshaw is in a process which is a lot slower.”
Leeds played Pascal Struijk in holding midfield at Arsenal. But the Dutchman is far better suited to a place at the heart of defence. At Molineux, Leeds trusted Jamie Shackleton in midfield – and Bielsa insists the homegrown star has his trust despite limited game-time so far this season.
“I believe in Shackleton as an important alternative for Leeds United,” Bielsa said (via Leeds Live). “He’s in a similar process to that of Pascal.
“The only thing is that Pascal has continuity that Shackleton does not. I feel he is a player I can trust. He is a very serious player, very applied and very conscious of what is needed to play at this level.”
Asked how Shackleton can cover for Phillips in midfield, Bielsa believes he can add his own characteristics to the side.
“In common with the absence of Kalvin, we’re also missing Llorente and [Robin] Koch. Both of them have history of playing in Phillips’ position,” Bielsa said.
“Koch not too long ago was a starter for his country in this position. But we had Phillips with this problem, plus Koch and Llorente’s problems.
“The absences of Llorente and Koch forced us to play Pascal at centre-back and Jamie and [Mateusz] Klich took up the role of the number 4 together with their own characteristics.”
Bielsa gives Tyler Roberts hope
One man who will be hoping to keep his place is Tyler Roberts. The Wales forward was given the nod to play in the No 10 role at Molineux and did well, despite Leeds drawing a blank and losing the game.
Asked what he needs to become a key player under Bielsa, the Leeds boss insisted his quality is not in question.
“What Tyler needs is to play with continuity, but not because anyone is missing but because he deserves to keep his place.
“Depending on this we will see if he is able to consolidate himself as a Premier League player or not.
“The game that he played the other day, should allow him to continue in the team but to consolidate himself in the team he needs to improve.
“He needs to be able to create more danger and generate fear from the opponents. The game the other day was an excellent first step. But he needs to keep on evolving.”