Leeds United have regained a bit of form at just the right time and, having picked up seven points from a possible nine, head into tomorrow’s clash with Watford with much more confidence.
Jesse Marsch’s side picked up some much-needed wins over Norwich and Wolves before drawing 1-1 with Southampton at Elland Road last time out.
Their trip to Vicarage Road may prove to be a severe test as Roy Hodgson’s men are currently fighting for their lives in the battle for relegation from the Premier League, and Marsch will have some big decisions to make in his starting line-up.
One decision he could be forced to make is to drop Diego Llorente.
The Spain international has found himself in and out of the squad in recent weeks and months, with nagging injuries preventing him from putting together a run of consistent games.
After being sent off inside the first half against the Wolves at Molineux in mid-March, Llorente made an immediate comeback against the Saints last weekend but appeared off-tempo and nervous at times.
According to SofaScore, while he made a team-high six tackles, he also committed the most joint fouls, and found it difficult to balance being aggressive and playing on the edge, losing his cool and composure at times. In fact, this season has seen him lose 80 games in total in the Premier League, while he won just 97.
Writing in his post-match player ratings for Leeds Live, Beren Cross gave it a five, saying: “He can be unconventional but sometimes brilliant or just on the verge of calamity at the baseline. Armando Broja made him a difficult afternoon without dominating him”.
Those sentiments were echoed by Graham Smyth of The Yorkshire Evening Post, who gave it a six, before adding: “It brought an element of drama at times that seemed unnecessary, some mixed moments of defense and possession.”
Pascal Struijk was the man who found himself out of the squad following the return of club captain Liam Cooper, with the Scot partnering Llorente in central defence.
While the Dutchman may have had a tough time of late, at just 22 he is still a big part of the future for this Leeds side, and would surely learn a lot more playing rather than sitting on the bench.
Indeed, speaking earlier this year, Cooper himself said of Struijk: “Pascal has absolutely everything to be one of the best centre-backs, he really does. He’s amazing on the ball, he’s strong, good in the air. He always knew. We all know now. His improvement speaks for itself.”
Bringing the youngster into the lineup and having someone as experienced as Cooper by his side should see him get back into much better shape, knowing he has someone to turn to and organize the defense rather than feel the pressure to do it himself. .
Valued at £12m by CIES, Llorente should be dropped from the starting line-up against Watford, with Struijk returning to take his place and resume his fledgling partnership with Cooper.
And in other news: Signed for £5m, now worth 700% more: Orta landed dream deal with Leeds with “quality” 22-year-old