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‘My gut feeling’ – Phil Hay shares insight into Leeds United’s crucial Bielsa dilemma at Newcastle

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Leeds United are in the midst of a centre-back crisis, and there are a few options that Marcelo Bielsa could explore tonight against Newcastle.

The Whites are in the North East this Friday night as they look for their first three points of the season.

A clash against Newcastle United has presented familiar selection dilemmas for managers Marcelo Bielsa and Steve Bruce, with key absentees forcing them to shuffle the pack.

As we gear up for kick off, the main issue with Bielsa’s lineup is going to be how he selects his defence for the game.

Not only has he got to contend with injuries to Robin Koch and Diego Llorente, but a three-match ban for Pascal Struijk has caused huge chaos in the backline.

The question of who is best to replace the missing centre-backs has been the core debate this week, with the solutions mainly either shifting Luke Ayling to the middle from right-back, or offering Charlie Cresswell the chance to step up from the under-23s.

As the game draws nearer, The Athletic’s Phil Hay has shared his thoughts on the matter pre-match:

My gut feeling says Ayling because that’s what Bielsa has always done in the past. Plus, he clearly likes the look of Shackleton as a right-back.

Cresswell is highly rated but still very raw – although I guess everyone needs their chance eventually.

One of a few interesting calls tonight.

I think he’ll go with Ayling in the middle and Shackleton at right-back.

That switch changed the game when we played Burnley before the international break, so I can see Bielsa sticking to that setup.

Cresswell is no doubt a brilliant talent, but to throw him into a league game without much prior exposure is a big risk.

I’m still confident that we have more than enough to firstly shut out the Magpies, but also threaten going forward against them.

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Leeds United season ticket holder since 2013/14, currently situated in the middle of the FA5 noise. From Pablo Hernandez to 5-1 drubbings, I've seen it all at Elland Road.