Spotlight on Leeds United forward Rodrigo and imminent Wolves threat Adama Traore from Spain's defeat in Kiev

LEEDS United's record signing Rodrigo was handed an opportunity as Spain's centre-forward in Tuesday night's Nations League clash against Ukraine in Kiev.
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Taken off after 58 minutes as Spain crashed to a first loss in nearly two years, the night was not exactly what Rodrigo would have planned.

Yet despite a frustrating evening on the whole, Rodrigo produced a performance that displayed many of the traits that Whites head coach Marcelo Bielsa would look for in a Whites no 9.

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Nearly two months after his arrival at United from Valencia for £27m, it is still unclear as to what will prove Rodrigo's best position for Leeds and in which role he will be most frequently be deployed in.

STARTING CHANCE: For Leeds United striker Rodrigo, back right, against Ukraine. Photo by SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP via Getty Images.STARTING CHANCE: For Leeds United striker Rodrigo, back right, against Ukraine. Photo by SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP via Getty Images.
STARTING CHANCE: For Leeds United striker Rodrigo, back right, against Ukraine. Photo by SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP via Getty Images.

The 29-year-old can basically play anywhere across the front line which in United's current system would mean one of four positions - centre-forward, no 10, wide left or wide right.

Aside from his start in the Carabao Cup clash at home to Hull City, all four of the Spaniard's outings for Leeds thus far have come in the no 10 role with three of those off the bench as a second-half substitute.

The summer recruit's performances in that position in United's recent clashes against Sheffield United and Manchester City offered huge hope that he could excel there and prove the best alternative to Pablo Hernandez.

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Rodrigo's only outing upfront for Leeds so far has been in the EFL Cup clash against Hull in which he was deprived of service as part of a night to forget for Marcelo Bielsa's side who were lucky to still be in the contest before ultimately losing on penalties.

MENACE: Spain's Adama Traore who Leeds will face on Monday night when Wolves come to Elland Road. Photo by SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP via Getty Images.MENACE: Spain's Adama Traore who Leeds will face on Monday night when Wolves come to Elland Road. Photo by SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP via Getty Images.
MENACE: Spain's Adama Traore who Leeds will face on Monday night when Wolves come to Elland Road. Photo by SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP via Getty Images.

Internationally, Rodrigo's role and best position for Spain has also been unclear of late with the former Valencia forward starting on the right side of a front three in last Wednesday's friendly against Portugal in Lisbon with Valencia's Gerrard Moreno in the centre forward role and Red Bull Leipzig's Dani Olmo wide left.

Rodrigo went close with three powerful drives from outside the box and was arguably Spain's best player in a first half of dominance despite Luis Enrique's side proving unable to find a breakthrough as part of a contest that ended in a goalless draw.

Rodrigo was taken off for Mikel Merino at half-time but the Whites forward had impressed in the first half so it was a surprise to see him on the bench for Spain's Nations League clash at home to Switzerland three days later.

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This time, Sociedad's Mikel Oyarzabal was deployed in the centre forward role with Barcelona's teen sensation Ansu Fati and Manchester City summer recruit Ferran Torres either side.

HANDFUL: Adama Traore is bundled to the floor as Spain captain Sergio Ramos appeals behind. Photo by SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP via Getty Images.HANDFUL: Adama Traore is bundled to the floor as Spain captain Sergio Ramos appeals behind. Photo by SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP via Getty Images.
HANDFUL: Adama Traore is bundled to the floor as Spain captain Sergio Ramos appeals behind. Photo by SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP via Getty Images.

Oyarzabal bagged the only goal of the game in a 1-0 victory but it was hardly a vintage display from either him or Spain overall and Enrique once again changed his front line for the Tuesday night clash in Kiev.

This time Rodrigo was handed his chance as the centre forward with Fati on the left and Wolves winger Adama Traore on the bench - a player who impressed off the bench in the clashes against Portugal and Switzerland.

Former Barcelona youngster Traore has made enormous strides since leaving Middlesbrough for Wolves in August 2018 with the winger blessed with lighting pace but also power.

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His final ball is sometimes still lacking but when he perfects that art he has the potential to become one of the best wingers out there and United's left-hand side will be in for a serious examination against him come Monday night's return to Premier League action at Elland Road.

With Trarore starting from the off in Kiev, it looked a menacing front three for Spain on paper, a good blend, and so it proved with Enrique's side battering the Ukraine for the opening 45 minutes.

Yet Spain ultimately once again failed to find the back of the net and Rodrigo had the best chances.

The Whites striker looked destined to score when connecting to a superb Jesus Navas cross in the 12th minute only to see Ukraine keeper Georgi Bushchan tip his header over the bar.

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It was a decent save from the Dynamo Kiev stopper who showed very quick reflexes but Rodrigo would have scored had his header been either side of him.

Three minutes later, Rodrigo would have had a tap in but Fati opted to shoot when clean through at a tight angle and saw his shot saved.

One minute later, another Rodrigo headed from a corner flashed wide and it was the same again with another similar effort on the half hour mark, albeit a slightly more difficult chance.

Seven minutes into the second half, another header and a difficult one at an awkward angle from a Fati cross was sent over the bar and two minutes before the hour Rodrigo's night was done with Oyarzabal taking his place.

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Oyarzabal went into the centre-forward role as Torres was also introduced for Fati but neither were able to beat inspired Ukraine keeper Bushchan and Spain ultimately fell to their first defeat in nearly two years as a very direct move in the 76th minute led to Viktor Tsygankov bagging the only goal of the game.

The defeat naturally led to an inquest in the Spanish press and Rodrigo was rated Spain's second worst player by Spanish daily Marca behind only David De Gea who was caught out of position for the goal.

Assessing Rodrigo's display, Marca's Jaime Rincon put: "A good chance fell to his head from a Jesus Navas cross, but other than that he wasn’t great."

Yet with Leeds eyes on, there was plenty to be optimistic about with Rodrigo producing some strong pieces of hold up play which are essential to any striker's game in a Bielsa line up.

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Rodrigo beat a few men to get to the byline before producing a pull back in the 19th minute but nobody was there to cash in and 11 minutes before the break Sergio Canales was set up by an inviting lay off only to fire wide.

Fati was set up in similar fashion nine minutes after the break but his cross came to nothing and after an attempt to control a long ball bounced off his knee Rodrigo's evening was done.

Spain need goals and the fact that Rodrigo failed to bag one grabbed the headlines.

Yet there was more to his performance than met the eye via his movement and hold up play and Leeds have been here before when a striker is doing most things right yet not scoring.

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United, though, stuck by Patrick Bamford and look where it got them in their first four games upon life back in the country's top flight.

Bamford's form is now so strong that the striker is even having to answer questions about the prospects of an England call.

There can be little doubt that Bamford starts as United's no 9 at present but, despite a poor night for Spain, Rodrigo has offered encouragement as to what he could do there when required.

For now, with Wolves in mind, Bamford up top with Rodrigo in behind looks the way forward - but watch out for Traore bombing up and down that right wing.

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Thank you Laura Collins