Leeds United team news - Marcelo Bielsa reveals latest on Diego Llorente, Kalvin Phillips and Adam Forshaw ahead of Everton game

Leeds United boss Marcelo Bielsa says midfielder Kalvin Phillips is closer to match fitness ahead of the visit to Elland Road of Everton.

Thursday, 19th August 2021, 11:57 am
Updated Thursday, 19th August 2021, 11:58 am
MISSED OUT - Diego Llorente was unable to feature in Leeds United's season opener at Manchester United due to a knock sustained against Real Betis in a summer friendly. Pic: Getty

But centre-half Diego Llorente is more likely to return from injury next week, when Leeds host Crewe Alexandra in the Carabao Cup and travel to Burnley.

Llorente sat out Leeds' season-opening visit to Old Trafford, where they were beaten 5-1 by bitter rivals Manchester United. The defender picked up a minor knock early on in the pre-season friendly against Real Betis at Loughborough.

His debut season at Elland Road was heavily disrupted by a series of niggles, with a groin problem and hamstring issues preventing him from making an impact until the latter stages of the campaign when he was finally about to string successive starts together and impressed in the defence.

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"It's more probable that he will have chances to compete again next week," said Bielsa.

Junior Firpo, injured in the same summer friendly, recovered in time to make his competitive debut off the bench at half-time last weekend.

Kalvin Phillips, whose pre-season was truncated by his Euros involvement with finalists England, was also among Bielsa's substitutes but not used in Manchester. He did not appear in Monday's 23s squad that travelled to Crystal Palace however as Bielsa did not consider it vital for his progression towards competitive action which suggests the midfielder's first team return could be imminent.

"Another week of work means he's physically better and closer," said the head coach.

"In this case I didn't deem it necessary that he gained minutes with the 23s."

Adam Forshaw, meanwhile, played 60 minutes at Selhurst Park but is still some way from a first team return.

"The process with Forshaw has to be a long one so he is able to play again at the highest level using his virtues," said Bielsa.

"Of course the level of the demand when he plays for the U23s is not the same as if he were to play in the Premier League. It's not the same to be able to finish or complete a game than to play segments of games. It's not the same to compete twice a week than to compete once a week, taking care of him.

"What we need to manage is for Forshaw to be able to complete two games in one week and that this doesn't increase or produce a risk of injury, and that he can chain together the games. That's what a player normally does when they're coming into a squad in the Premier League, being able to play one or two times a week, being able to recover in that time and if there's only one game a week that he's able to train leading up to that game and after it also."

Bielsa is exercising caution so that Leeds can finally recover a highly valued asset for his side, one he believes they could not purchase in the transfer market.

"To make reference to the player Forshaw was two years ago, he was one of the best players Leeds had without a doubt," said Bielsa.

"After two years without playing of course he's not that same player. The process for him to start looking like that player again necessarily has to be progressive and it has to help him to feel full and confident. If we do this in a rush, urgently or anxiously there are a lot of risks that we run. He's a very serious and an applied professional and I'm sure he has a desire to shorten the time. But if there are errors we've made in the past with this injury that has lasted two years, to have accelerated the times, to have brought him back prematurely this has generated other injuries.

"So when he is recovered, healthy and full, he has the characteristics of a player we can't buy in the market at the moment."