Marcelo Bielsa revealed he has a winger dilemma ahead of Leeds United’s clash with Stoke City on Saturday.
Table-topping Leeds will be looking to continue their good start to the season when they visit the bet365 Stadium, with hosts Stoke bottom of the league having failed to win any of their first four games.
Leeds are coming off the back of a closely-fought 1-0 win over Brentford, in which Eddie Nketiah came off the bench to score the winner – and Bielsa suggested there could be an opportunity for the Arsenal loanee to make his first Championship start, albeit in a different position.
“Obviously he’s an option in the team,” Bielsa told reporters at a press conference. “Each of them have two alternatives. During the season the 18 players will play.
“He has more skills. He can play as a winger. We have [Jack] Clarke, [Helder] Costa and many more.”
Nketiah’s emergence has been one of the factors in Clarke not making a league appearance so far, with EFL rules dictating that a maximum of five loan players may be involved in a squad.
Clarke has returned to Leeds for the season after sealing a move to Tottenham Hotspur this summer, but has not been called up in the league yet, given that Leeds have six players on loan.
However, Bielsa insisted that there is still space for Clarke in his plans.
“For me he is an important player. He has very good individual skills.
“We have no reason to say anything special as to why he hasn’t been in the 18. We have a lot of matches this month. He will probably play in the game next Tuesday.
“In this moment we have many wingers, I am focused on three. Pablo [Hernandez], [Jack] Harrison and Costa.”
Leeds seem to have fared better in their away games so far, and will be hoping to continue that positive form at Stoke, but Bielsa does not agree that the locations of the games are causing the different levels of performance – and he knows the Potters will be no roll-overs.
“The two games that we play away, they were less physical, less close. Maybe it was this. But not because it was away or at home. Because of the kind of game.
“The league show that all the teams suffer bad and good results. In the different parts of the season this situation happens. I don’t think Stoke will keep this bad performance.”
Bielsa’s side have, of course, endured a different kind of fortune so far, but again, the coach is wary to put too much emphasis on their good start.
“It was a very good performance to start last year. It’s true at the same time to compare both it’s too easy. We have to wait.”
The tactician also revealed some lineup news for the Stoke clash.
“[Gaetano] Berardi in for [Liam] Cooper. [Jamie] Shackleton in for [Stuart] Dallas.
“Dallas and Cooper rested today. To try and recover. Liam has a kick in the ankle. Dallas has a muscle problem. But hopefully they will play.”
Barry Douglas is also expected to miss out, but Bielsa is confident he will be back shortly.
“We’re thinking he can play in the [EFL] cup match [also against Stoke, on Tuesday]. We’ll know more after the weekend.”
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