Leeds United: Selection decisions ahead for Bielsa

Marcelo Bielsa.
Marcelo Bielsa.

After largely sticking to the same side for the last month’s league games Marcelo Bielsa faces a few selection dilemmas as Leeds United head down the M1 to take on Rotherham United in a Yorkshire derby on Saturday.

First of all the head coach has to decide who to bring in at centre-back with Pontus Jansson forced to sit out the game at the New York Stadium through suspension following his harsh sending off at Stoke.

Whoever comes in has a hard act to follow with Jansson in brilliant form this season and Leeds are sure to miss his aerial ability.

It is not exactly a straight swap, but Bielsa can call on Kalvin Phillips after his three-match ban for his red card has now been completed and he will be favourite to take his place in the back four alongside skipper Liam Cooper.

Other options include switching Luke Ayling to a central role with Jamie Shackleton able to come in at right-back where he has impressed this season. Youngster Aapo Halme is another up for consideration.

There could be a further change at the back with new goalkeeper Kiko Casilla now giving Bielsa options on who to hand the gloves to.

Unsurprisingly he was just put on the bench last weekend after only just completing his move from Real Madrid on Thursday.

Bailey Peacock-Farrell did nothing wrong at Stoke and could count himself unlucky to lose his place at this time, but it is unlikely a keeper like Casilla has come to Elland Road to warm the bench and Bielsa will have a plan on when it is right to call on him in the starting line-up.

Leeds, meanwhile, are still in pursuit of a winger before the January transfer window shuts as it is clear reinforcements are needed.

Despite three defeats in the last four league games they are still top of the table, but they cannot afford to squander more points at fourth from bottom Rotherham, who have only won five games all season.

There are some huge games coming up next month, including Norwich and Middlesbrough, but in many ways this Saturday’s is every bit as important.

With second and third placed teams Norwich and Sheffield United meeting it could be a great chance to put some distance on at least one of their rivals.

The pressure is back on after the 2-1 defeat at Stoke, but the players responded to the challenge against Derby when the eyes of the footballing world were on them.