Leeds United are looking to get back towards full strength when they welcome Arsenal to Elland Road on Sunday, with the international break seeing a handful of players regain fitness.
The last two weeks have given the Whites plenty of food for thought after two damaging results against Leicester City and Crystal Palace, where we were on the wrong end of consecutive 4-1 scorelines.
Both games demonstrated very similar shortcomings for Leeds, where our midfield were overrun and too slow in transitions, allowing for swift counter-attacks to punish us on numerous occasions.
Key absentees haven’t helped the balance in midfield, with both the base and the tip of the pivot significantly weakened by players being unavailable.
Kalvin Phillips was the most notable absence to the starting lineup over the past three games, where defensive shape was exploited quite often against Aston Villa, Leicester and Palace.
However, going forward, Rodrigo not being available for the latter two clashes highlighted his importance to the starting lineup when he was forced to sit out via self-isolation.
Ahead of the Gunners’ visit on Sunday, Marcelo Bielsa spoke to the media about key team news as his side look to get back to winning ways (via LeedsLive). On Phillips, he stated: “It’s probable.
“I can’t guarantee it, but it’s probable.
Spanish international Rodrigo was confirmed as fit to face Arsenal, but not guaranteed to start. He added: “It is less likely that he’ll start, but he’ll be there.”
Pablo Hernandez has been in the headlines over the past two weeks at Elland Road after his tantrum against Leicester City and subsequent axing against Palace.
Bielsa delivered this setback on Hernandez’s return to the lineup: “We have added Pablo to the injury list as he picked up a muscular injury this week.
“Nothing serious but he won’t be able to play this weekend.”
The second Spanish international in the squad, Diego Llorente, has been waiting for his Leeds debut since joining but he’ll have to wait a little while longer as he continues to recover from a groin injury.
Bielsa explained: “What happened with Llorente was he was injured, recovered and had a relapse in training.
“He is now cured, but because of the relapse he is being given extra time to fully get back to be sure.”
It’s frustrating news that Llorente is still not fit, and now we have Hernandez sitting out, but the positive news is that key starters, Phillips and Rodrigo, are back.
We’ll need to be on top form to get three points against Mikel Arteta’s men but having a side much closer to our best is a huge boost.
Hernandez is getting to a point in his career where injury setbacks will take longer to recover from than before and it’s showing this season.
The main question now is whether Bielsa deems Rodrigo to be fit enough to start after his somewhat cryptic comments about his fitness.