Leeds United pair missing from international squad for September trio of World Cup qualifiers

Leeds United's Spanish international pair Diego Llorente and Rodrigo have both missed out on selection for Luis Enrique's September squad.

Thursday, 26th August 2021, 11:36 am
COMING BACK - Diego Llorente is making his way back from a recent injury and played 45 minutes for Leeds United in midweek, but has not been included in the Spain squad for September's internationals. Pic: Getty

Spain take on Sweden, Georgia and Kosovo in a trio of World Cup qualifying group games next month, but will do so without the Whites duo, who are both working their way back to full fitness after knocks.

Llorente was part of Enrique's Euro 2020 squad but was on the bench for five of their six tournament games and sat out the other entirely. His debut season at Elland Road was heavily disrupted by injury and although he recovered to play a full part in the latter stages of Leeds' Premier League campaign, a false positive Covid-19 test played havoc with his preparation for the Euros. The centre-half was forced to withdraw from Spain's pre-tournament camp until he tested negative enough times to rejoin the group.

He returned to Leeds for pre-season and picked up a fresh niggle which kept him out of the first two Premier League games against Manchester United and Everton. He returned in this week's Carabao Cup win over Crewe Alexandra at Elland Road, playing 45 minutes and impressing with his passing ability, creating a trio of chances with sublime forward balls.

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His omission from the national team is likely to come as some measure of relief for Leeds, who are continuing to carefully manage his fitness in the hope that he can play a much more significant part in his second season.

Rodrigo, meanwhile, has found himself out of the Spain squad since last October when he played against the Ukraine in the Nations League. He also endured a Covid-19 disruption last season, for both club and country, contracting the virus just before the November internationals. A groin injury in January kept him out until March, with that month's World Cup qualifiers coming too soon.

Although the forward, who has 25 caps and eight international goals to his name, hit form and recovered his fitness by the end of the season to finish with a flourish at Leeds, it was not enough to secure a place in Enrique's Euro 2020 plans.

There was a brief moment of hope, brought about by the Covid cases in the Spain camp, with Enrique calling Rodrigo and others into a shadow squad that trained to stay ready in case they were needed, but the Leeds man played no part in the tournament.

His 2021/22 season has also been impacted by injury - a slight knock sustained in training meant Marcelo Bielsa did not risk him against Everton and he too made his return in the Carabao Cup, playing 69 minutes against Crewe.

Bielsa hopes the 30-year-old can shine as he did in pre-season. "I have a lot of confidence in the qualities of Rodrigo," he said.

"During his holidays he did physical work that was very important. During the six weeks of pre-season he's the player who shone the most in those weeks. I have a lot of hopes for him that in this season he is going to show all the qualities he has."