Sport

Leeds’ injury woes deepen with Kalvin Phillips and Liam Cooper out till March

Marcelo Bielsa has revealed that Leeds will be without their key central midfielder, Kalvin Phillips, and their captain, Liam Cooper, until March and admitted he is struggling to correct his team’s poor form.

“I have not been able to solve the situation as I thought I could,” Bielsa said. “I wasn’t able to resolve the lowering of performance. The evaluation of my task is negative. I imagined resources would resolve them but evidently those resources were not the adequate ones.”

The Leeds manager is preparing to face fellow strugglers Burnley at Elland Road on Sunday after seeing his 16th-placed side win only one of their previous eight games and concede 16 goals in the past four fixtures.

With Phillips recovering from hamstring surgery and the similarly hamstrung Cooper unavailable at centre-half, Bielsa acknowledges that his squad requires reinforcement during the transfer window.

“We will see in January if an alternative comes up which we can take advantage of,” said a manager who has long preferred to work with an unusually small nucleus of senior professionals but is perhaps realising that the spine of his starting XI may be too weak to resist a relegation skirmish. Without England’s Phillips to anchor midfield Leeds have frequently looked a pale shadow of the vibrant side who finished ninth last season.

Patrick Bamford has recovered from hamstring trouble and is back, although Bielsa cautioned that his team’s principal striker may begin on the bench. “Patrick is healthy but he hasn’t played for four weeks now,” he said. “That puts into doubt the convenience of him playing.”

Junior Firpo, Dan James, Diego Llorente and Jack Harrison have overcome a mix of injuries, Covid and suspension but Rodrigo, Pascal Struijk, Jamie Shackleton and Charlie Cresswell remain sidelined, with Shackleton and Cresswell expected to be absent until early February.