Leeds United head to Middlesbrough on Wednesday evening, as the club aims to maintain their position of strength in the race for promotion to the Premier League. Marcelo Bielsa is likely to stick with his usual starting XI for the clash at the Riverside, despite injury concerns over Kiko Casilla and Kalvin Phillips.
Both Casilla and Phillips were injured in the Championship match against Reading last weekend.
Goalkeeper Casilla received a kick to the hand, while Phillips hobbled off the pitch with a calf injury.
But, Bielsa confirmed that he’s optimistic over both players, and they’re just battling through the pain barrier at the moment.
He’s hopeful that both players will be available for selection against Middlesbrough.
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“Kiko has a problem with his hand, there is inflammation from a kick,” said Bielsa.
“Maybe he will play, that depends on the pain. That depends on the level of the pain, but if he can support the level of the pain I think he is going to play.
“Kalvin got a kick, and it depends on if the pain disappears. With both players I am optimistic.”
Despite Casilla’s fitness concerns, some sections of support have been calling for the former Real Madrid goalkeeper to be dropped.
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Casilla’s form took a turn for the worse after December, but Bielsa has already ruled out replacing him with back-up goalkeeper Illan Meslier.
That means that, assuming Phillips is fit to start, Bielsa will likely name an unchanged since for the trip to Middlesbrough.
Casilla will be relied upon as the club’s No 1 goalkeeper, with Luke Ayling and Stuart Dallas acting as full-backs.
Captain Liam Cooper and Ben White will continue their partnership at the heart of defence.
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In midfield, Phillips will be given the defensive role, while also acting as the team’s linchpin.
Ahead of him will be Spaniard Pablo Hernandez, who scored the winning goal against Reading last time out.
Mateusz Klich has featured in 82 consecutive league matches for Leeds, and he’s likely to extend that record.
Both Klich and Hernandez will be given license to push forward when in possession, knowing that Phillips will sit deeper to protect the back four.
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Meanwhile, going forward, Bielsa will be relying on Jack Harrison and Helder Costa to provide the width.
Harrison has started every match so far this season, but hasn’t scored a goal since the 5-4 win against Birmingham in December.
Costa is enjoying a lengthy spell in the Leeds team, but also hasn’t got on the scoresheet since the win at St Andrews.
Leading the line will be Patrick Bamford. The striker has only scored twice this calendar year, but appears to a favourite of Bielsa. He’ll narrowly edge out January signing Jean-Kevin Augustin.
Leeds United predicted line-up vs Middlesbrough
(4-1-4-1) Casilla; Ayling, White, Cooper, Dallas; Phillips; Costa, Hernandez, Klich, Harrison; Bamford
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