Chelsea v Leeds United - Marcelo Bielsa press conference on four new injuries for Whites and Robin Koch

Whites head coach Marcelo Bielsa is facing the media today ahead of Saturday's Premier League clash against historic rivals Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

By Flora Snelson
Thursday, 9th December 2021, 11:37 am
FIRST MEETING: Between Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel, left, and Leeds United head coach Marcelo Bielsa, right. Graphic by Graeme Bandeira.
FIRST MEETING: Between Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel, left, and Leeds United head coach Marcelo Bielsa, right. Graphic by Graeme Bandeira.

Leeds are 15th in the Premier League table after 15 games played but both Kalvin Phillips and captain Liam Cooper were forced off injured during Sunday's 2-2 draw at home to Brentford.

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German international centre-back Robin Koch has been out since August with a pelvic issue but is working his way back whist Luke Ayling and Patrick Bamford only featured for the first time since September in Sunday's clash against the Bees after their recent setbacks.

United are six points above the drop zone although third-bottom Burnley have a game in hand.

Bielsa is speaking to the press at 1pm and everything that is said by the Whites boss will be posted here at our live blog.

Chelsea v Leeds United - Marcelo Bielsa press conference LIVE

Last updated: Thursday, 09 December, 2021, 14:05

  • Marcelo Bielsa speaking to the media at 1pm.
  • Saturday 3pm kick-off at Stamford Bridge.

Bielsa wraps up his pre-Chelsea press conference.

Do you feel that Ayling was playing his best football before his injury in September? Gareth Southgate was looking at him.

When Ayling finds his match fitness, he’s a player, from my point of view, of a very high level. And when he plays consecutive games, he acquires his best level quickly.

Much has been made of Leeds’ record without Kalvin Phillips. Do you feel better now that Adam Forshaw is fit and available?

Forshaw has been a presence which has given fortitude to the team. Struijk also, in that position. I also think that Koch can be an excellent defensive mid. In that sense, I try to develop what these players can contribute.

What is the likelihood of any of the players needing surgery?

I have not asked for that information. As a result, I cannot tell you it. Obviously, because they’re more tendon injuries rather than from the muscle fibre, we know that it is not like the muscular injuries which are cured in one month.

How do you cope, psychologically, with the continual injury blows?

If you look over the statistics for the injuries for all of the teams, there are a high percentage of teams with four absentees per fixture. Things happen to us, but these things also happen to our opponents. We’ll not find the difficulties a justification, not because it’s a method, but because I feel that way. To say that the difficulties mean that their performance decreases, from my point of view that is just choosing the easiest path.

How will Robin Koch be re-introduced?

He can pay as a centre-back, as a defensive-mid. He’s been out for a long time so the preparation that he’s had is very demanding. We think that to stay on form currently he needs competition. In case we need him quicker, we would analyse the possibility of calling him up. There’s three conditions that are basic: that he’s healthy, that he’s fit physically, and that he’s fine, technically. For the competitive rhythm, it is likely that he gets it not in the Premier League, but in the under-23 games. That’s the ideal, but sometimes there are circumstances that impede the ideal and you do what is necessary.

Luke Ayling came back last weekend. How much of a boost has it been to have him back, both in terms of his performance, and his leadership skills?

He’s a versatile player. He can defend as a full-back or as a centre-back. He is a player with a lot of personality. He takes risk with the management of the ball. He’s especially optimistic, and he transmits confidence, faith and energy to us all. In the absence of Cooper, who is our captain, we can also say that Ayling is a great captain.

How impressed have you been with Tyler Roberts’ development?

I think he’s improving. I think he can show a lot of his virtues. And at the same time, there’s a lot of things that he can do that he hasn’t made visible yet.

How different does your team need to be depending on whether Tuchel picks Lukaku, Werner, etc?

They’re all similar. They’re all centre-forwards with different characteristics. But we’re not going to plan the game differently depending on who’s playing.

Thomas Tuchel has not been happy with the way Chelsea has played in the last couple of games. What have you made of recent performances?

The performance from yesterday (against Zenit) was from a mixed squad that doesn’t represent their true strength. The defeat against West Ham - you have to watch and analyse it to see if the result aligned with what was deserved, how the game went. I didn’t see a lowering in the way they play. But you transmit to me what the Chelsea manager thinks, and if what you say is true then I’m not anyone to say anything to the contrary, nor do I feel that it’s right to interpret his feelings as he is the one that looks at his own team. I only offer points of view from one more spectator. Yesterday’s team was not their habitual team. The result against West Ham, I’m not sure if it’s what Chelsea really deserved. To confirm what I’m saying, with respect to the game yesterday, all you have to do is look at the eleven, and then with regards to the game against West Ham there isn’t sufficient data to say whether what he has said is right or not.

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