Leeds’ survival hopes have been handed a huge boost by the news that Kalvin Phillips and Liam Cooper have returned to full training.
The influential duo have been out with hamstring injuries since Leeds drew 2-2 with Brentford in December, a game which also saw Patrick Bamford ruled out for around three months.
In their absences, Leeds have picked up just three wins in 14 league matches and are now in the midst of a relegation dogfight, but will be significantly strengthened against Wolves on Friday night.
England international Phillips’ return will be the most welcome, with the likes of Robin Koch and Mateusz Klich unable to replicate the role Phillips carries out for his boyhood club – although Adam Forshaw has emerged with some credit.
It is likely he will have to adapt to a slightly new way of playing under Jesse Marsch who favours a more direct approach and a midfield partnership similar to the one Phillips performs alongside Declan Rice with England, somewhat contrasting the single pivot he has occupied for the past four seasons.
However the leadership and experience of Cooper at the back will also be critical in the run-in, with Pascal Struijk lacking in confidence of late and the need for big personalities in such circumstances.
🎙 : “Liam and Kalvin are in full training and eligible for this weekend” pic.twitter.com/Snk6ewHxnY
— Leeds United (@LUFC) March 17, 2022
It is a major boost to new manager Marsch, who welcomed back Bamford last week against Aston Villa and now is able to call upon three major players who Marcelo Bielsa relied so heavily on and whose absence played a big part in the Argentinean’s demise.
The run of eight consecutive games without a win – seven of them defeats – was characterised by a threadbare squad caused by a range of significant injuries to key players, but with that seemingly over, Marsch faces a winnable run of games in which Leeds should secure their survival.
However it is not all good news for Whites fans, with Marsch admitting during his pre-match press conference that goalscorers against Norwich, Rodrgio and Joe Gelhardt, were suffering from knocks and not 100% fit, while Junior Firpo is out for a further three to five weeks.
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