Four questions facing Marcelo Bielsa as Leeds United's opening day looms

Leeds United ended their pre-season preparations for the coming Championship campaign with a 1-1 draw against Serie A outfit Cagliari this weekend.

By Joe Urquhart
Sunday, 28th July 2019, 9:48 pm
Updated Sunday, 28th July 2019, 10:48 pm
Leeds United head coach Marcelo Bielsa and his coaching staff. (Getty)
Leeds United head coach Marcelo Bielsa and his coaching staff. (Getty)

Marcelo Bielsa's side have had a busy schedule playing a host of fixtures both locally, in Australia and behind closed doors before a trip to Sardinia brought the curtain down on the gruelling summer.

Here, we take a look at some of the key talking points as attention now turns towards Ashton Gate with Bristol City the opponents first up next weekend in the Championship.

Marcelo Bielsa's has decisions to make

A squad that has been split in two all summer will finally come together next weekend.

Fixtures against Cagliari and Girona both presented opportunities for players to pick up more minutes but also offered a final chance to make an impression as United head into the new campaign.

Casilla looks fairly settled in goal but the 64-year-old has been flicking between his favoured 4-1-4-1 formation and a new look 3-3-1-3 that includes a diamond shape in midfield as opposed to the usual flat set up.

The Whites have already lost a number of players to injury with Luke Ayling, Kemar Roofe and Tyler Roberts the current notable absentees.

Bielsa, though, still has decisions to make in midfield over how he fits new signing Helder Costa into the fold and whether Pablo Hernandez makes a permanent move across into the centre.

Adam Forshaw and Mateusz Klich have been left to battle out for a spot in the side while youngster Mateusz Bogusz has also emerged as a potential break out star this season.

What about Gjanni Alioski and Jack Harrison? Or even returning loanee Jack Clarke?

There's plenty for Marcelo to ponder this week.

Where will Patrick Bamford's confidence come from?

Goals breed confidence and sadly Patrick Bamford is lacking in them.

The 25-year-old has struggled in front of goal this summer so far and despite pre-season being mainly about fitness there have still been some concerning signs following a disappointing end to the campaign last year.

Bamford notably spurned a number of opportunities in Australia and more frustration followed in Sardinia in his general forward play.

One goal, though, could be all it needs for him to find that spark and swagger, and with Kemar Roofe sidelined for the majority of the opening month it seems the former Middlesbrough man will get his chance to quieten those dissenting voices on the terraces.

A defence short of options?

Pontus Jansson's exit this summer has left a void in the centre of defence which appears to have been filled by loanee Ben White.

Bielsa seems set on his options at the back, but United need no reminder of just how quickly injuries can derail plans after suffering a whole host of problems last summer.

White, Liam Cooper and Gaetano Berardi are the only three recognised senior central defenders in West Yorkshire while Kalvin Phillips can slot in when required.

There are also a whole host of Under-23s waiting in the wings to step up - none more so than Pascal Struijk and Leif Davis who have both seen action in pre-season.

Time will tell, though, whether the Whites tight-knit squad - as Bielsa likes it - can last the testing 46-game campaign with the Championship leaving no hiding place.

Kiko Casilla - is he over his early troubles?

Much was promised after the Spaniard joined United's ranks from Real Madrid.

Casilla, though, left a firm imprint on the Leeds fans as his mix up with Liam Cooper ultimately aided the club's downfall in the end of season play-offs as Premier League dreams were left in pieces.

The 32-year-old put in an encouraging display in Italy and has been trending in the right direction this summer as he made a number of crucial saves to ensure the Whites left with a draw.

His decision making appeared far more assured and his commanding of his own area did too, far more encouraging signs after a shaky start to life in LS11.

United know that Bielsa needs a reliable figure between the sticks this season and Casilla has some making up to do - now more than ever.