Marcelo Bielsa underlines Kalvin Phillips importance to Leeds United ahead of Reading trip

Leeds United midfielder Kalvin Phillips.Leeds United midfielder Kalvin Phillips.
Leeds United midfielder Kalvin Phillips.
Marcelo Bielsa underlined the influence of Kalvin Phillips in Saturday’s victory over Bristol City as he crossed his fingers that the midfielder and Patrick Bamford would shake off injuries in time to line-up against Reading.

Bielsa credited Phillips with driving back-to-back victories over West Bromwich Albion and Bristol City in the wake of a disappointing loss at Queens Park Rangers which forced Leeds United’s head coach to substitute him early in the second half.

Leeds’ 1-0 defeat at Loftus Road on February 26 passed up a chance to claim first place in the Championship but Bielsa’s players reacted to it with a 4-0 rout of West Brom and a disciplined 1-0 win over Bristol City on Saturday.

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Bielsa, however, left Ashton Gate with a minor doubt about Phillips and more pressing concerns over the fitness of Bamford after both players were hurt during a combative match.

Bamford underwent tests yesterday on a knee injury suffered when he collided with a post while scoring the only goal of the game on nine minutes. The pain led Bielsa to replace him before the hour mark.

Phillips, meanwhile, appeared to twist an ankle before the interval and required treatment on the pitch but he stayed onto the end of the game and is expected to be fit to start at Reading on Tuesday.

The 23-year-old has been a revelation under Bielsa this season, occupying a pivotal midfield role, and his defensive work was crucial in helping to seal a narrow success at Ashton Gate.

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Bielsa, who withdrew him after 65 minutes on a bad night at Loftus Road, said: “Since QPR he’s had two very important performances, against West Brom and this one. When he plays well the level of the team increases greatly.

“He played in front of our centre-backs and adapted his position. In the second half, when we had the number 10 (Matty Taylor) from Bristol on the pitch, he played a little bit deeper. Bristol are a difficult team to play and they have good players. If you play to Bristol’s style and don’t stop the ball going through the middle, it’s very difficult to beat them.”

Bristol City manager Lee Johnson conceded that the pressure put on his midfield by Leeds had prevented his side from causing United serious problems.

“We didn't exploit the weaknesses of their style which is one or two quick bits of play and find the space,” Johnson said. “We worked on it through the week and we felt we could expose them. We just couldn't get enough love of the ball to kill them where they could be killed.”

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Bamford has been beset with injuries throughout his first season with Leeds, starting just eight matches since coming to Elland Road in a £7m deal from Middlesbrough.

Despite the setbacks, he notched his seventh goal of the term at Ashton Gate and will undergo scans today with Bielsa anxious to involve him away at Reading.

Bielsa resisted the need to substitute him for as long as possible on Saturday, despite Bamford showing obvious effects of his collision with the post, and the United boss said: “For us we need to make movements on the pitch to attack and press the opponent. Bamford is very important in this and because he’s important I didn’t want to take him out of the game.

“But I saw that his performance weakened us a little after the goal he scored.”