Seven Leeds United players are either doubtful or ruled out of Saturday’s clash with West Ham United at Elland Road.
Marcelo Bielsa is going to have to dig deep into his box of tricks at Thorp Arch to put together a side for the Premier League clash.
After a bench was named with an average age of 19 at Newcastle United last week, do not be surprised to see something similar tomorrow.
Of the seven doubts, four have been confirmed as unavailable. Three centre-backs Robin Koch, Diego Llorente and Pascal Struijk will be joined in the John Charles Stand by Patrick Bamford.
Despite being able to hobble through to the end of last Friday’s draw and then get out into the city on Monday to support a new cycle lane initiative, Bamford will be unavailable.
The England international’s absence is a major blow with goals already proving difficult to come by in 2021/22.
Luke Ayling, Raphinha and Jack Harrison are the doubts Bielsa was not prepared to rule in or rule out, though he admitted the latter would at least be clear of his isolation period.
Assuming Harrison does not develop any stresses or strains upon his return to training, you have to assume someone of his experience is on the bench at the very least, even if his preparations have been severely hampered.
Ayling’s knee issue was serious enough to warrant an inclusion on the press release the club published around his and Bamford’s Carabao Cup absence on Tuesday morning.
Furthermore, the defender was unable to even see out Friday’s match, despite his best efforts. Ayling seems the least likely of the three to make it.
Raphinha, by contrast, was well enough at Newcastle after being substituted to avoid any immediate treatment, stay in his match kit and even wander out to the touchline for coaching with Crysencio Summerville.
The Brazil winger was also conspicuous by his absence from Tuesday’s club statement on the injury situation. While Bielsa does not want to over-promise and under-deliver, the signs suggest Raphinha has a decent enough chance of making it.
The performances of Charlie Cresswell and Jamie Shackleton at Fulham also throw up intriguing dilemmas for Bielsa to chew on.
For Cresswell especially, Bielsa went out of his way to explain how drastically his opinion had changed on the young defender between Friday night and Wednesday morning.
With a dearth of partners available for captain Liam Cooper and Kalvin Phillips’s inimitable skills best served in front of the defence, Cresswell has a real chance of making his league debut.
Pascal Struijk’s Premier League debut at Anfield last season showed how willing Bielsa is to throw youngsters into the deep end when they have his confidence and the injury situation calls for it.
Pick your team for Saturday’s match below and share it on social media. We have been optimistic and included the three doubts Bielsa could not rule out.
Mateusz Klich has quietly put together a series of solid performances and his experienced head will be required in a patched-up squad.
The Poland international should hold onto his central berth and keep Stuart Dallas at right-back, meaning Shackleton could be forced back to the bench unless Bielsa shakes the attack up.
Tyler Roberts frustrated again in the week, but Bielsa’s faith in the Wales international is solid, especially when Bamford is absent.
Rodrigo starts, but it may come down to whether Bielsa wants Shackleton playing behind him in midfield or Roberts combining with him as a second attacker.
Assuming Raphinha is passed fit, he starts and after Daniel James’s encouraging turn on Tuesday, he looks solid for the other flank in light of Harrison’s 10 days in isolation.
Predicted line-up: Meslier; Dallas, Cresswell, Cooper, Firpo; Phillips; Raphinha, Klich, Rodrigo, James; Roberts.