Spotlight on Barry Douglas as Marcelo Bielsa juggles Leeds United options at left back

BARRY DOUGLAS returned to a Leeds United Championship starting line-up for the first time since August with Marcelo Bielsa evidently weighing up his options at left back.

By Lee Sobot
Sunday, 12th January 2020, 3:55 pm
COMEBACK: Barry Douglas, right, has started Leeds United's last two games at left back including the FA Cup clash at Arsenal, above. Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images.
COMEBACK: Barry Douglas, right, has started Leeds United's last two games at left back including the FA Cup clash at Arsenal, above. Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images.

Gjanni Alioski made way for Saturday's Championship hosting of Sheffield Wednesday as Douglas started his first league game since the 1-1 draw at home to Nottingham Forest in August and the 30-year-old made a bright impression early in the first half.

Douglas admitted in an Instagram post over New Year that 2019 had been challenge for the full-back who has had to endure several frustrations through injuries and the process that follows.

After also impressing from the start in the third round FA Cup clash at Arsenal on Monday night, the 30-year-old again looked in the mood to ensure he would end the season with a bang given his performance in the early stages against the Owls.

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Douglas regularly linked up well with Jack Harrison down the left flank with the two quickly looking in sync as United created several goalscoring opportunities.

But after a more challenging start to the second half up against Owls right winger Jacob Murphy, Douglas was swapped for Alioski four minutes before the hour with the score still goalless and United seeking the breakthrough.

Douglas had 52 touches of the ball, making 35 passes, with one of those a key pass and 26 of those passes accurate.

That meant a passing success rate of 74 per cent whilst Douglas also won one of his two defensive aerials and one of his three attempted tackles plus one clearance and one interception.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Alioski - who has been better recognised as a left winger - offered more of a goal threat with one shot on target that was blocked but a lower percentage of passing success rate at 67 compared to Douglas' 74.

Alioski was not successful with either of his two attempted tackles but won one offensive aerial battles.

Essentially, Alioski offered more going forward - hence the change - but Wednesday's opening goal came down the right flank and Douglas looked assured in the early stages at least.

The duo are two very different options for Whites head coach Bielsa - who can also play Stuart Dallas in the position - and it will be interesting to see who starts at left back come Saturday's clash at Queens Park Rangers.