Leeds United face their Championship rivals in the Carabao Cup this week.
Leeds supporters were dealing with a familiar feeling this past week when Marcelo Bielsa suggested that Liam Cooper was set to miss the Whites’ clash with Stoke City at the weekend due to injury.
United’s season was plagued by injuries last term. Remarkably, Bielsa is still awaiting the chance to pick from a fully fit squad since arriving at Elland Road, with Luke Ayling and Tyler Roberts sidelined throughout pre-season. And Cooper’s absence was a real cause for concern.
Ben White and Gaetano Berardi were outstanding in the 3-0 victory at the bet365 Stadium. And Bielsa then delivered some good news by confirming after the game that Cooper could have played but was left out as he was not quite at full fitness (via Leeds Live).
Nevertheless, Leeds would arguably would be wise to heed the warning signs. While they cannot prepare for injuries that will inevitably come as the season stretches the squad, they can get other players ready in case they are needed when the pressure is on.
And that should tempt Bielsa to hand Pascal Struijk a debut against the Potters when they meet in the Carabao Cup this week.
The Dutchman has been one of the most impressive performers in the under-23s over the last year, and appears to have stepped his game up in the early stages of this season.
It looks inevitable that he will break into the first-team at some stage in the near future. But of course, it is difficult to know whether the 20-year-old will thrive in the first-team before he gets an opportunity, so handing him his debut at Stoke seems to make a lot of sense.
Bielsa may be hoping that he does not have to use Struijk this season. But with Cooper already picking up a slight knock and Leeds not having the depth to cope with too many problems in that area of the field, a cup tie against a Championship rival could be the perfect time to give Struijk his first-team bow in case he does receive an unavoidable promotion up the pecking order later on this season.