Leeds United midfielder Kalvin Phillips is ‘unlikely’ to start his side’s Premier League clash with Aston Villa, according to journalist Graham Smyth.
The Lowdown: Enormous boost for Leeds
The Whites were defeated 1-0 away to Leicester City last weekend, as Jesse Marsch made a losing start to life at Elland Road since replacing Marcelo Bielsa.
There’s no time to dwell and the matches keep coming thick and fast for Leeds, however, with a home clash against Steven Gerrard’s Villa up next on Thursday night.
Phillips is close to returning from a lengthy injury layoff, and Smyth believes his comeback is ‘enormous‘ news. Indeed, the 26 year-old ranked as the side’s fourth-best player to have played more than three times last term, standing behind only top goalscorer Patrick Bamford, star man Raphinha and captain Liam Cooper, per Whoscored.
However, the journalist doesn’t think Marsch will unleash the England star from the off.
The Latest: ‘Unlikely’ to start vs Villa
Writing for The Yorkshire Evening Post, Smyth admitted that it would be a surprise if Phillips was named in Marsch’s first Elland Road starting XI:
“The length of time Phillips has been out suggests a start on Thursday is unlikely, no matter how robust the Leeds lad has proven in the past and even if he has taken little time to get up to speed after previous injuries.
“A return would be an enormous boost.”
The Verdict: Don’t rush him back
While there is clear desperation to get Phillips back on the pitch as soon as possible – Steve McClaren has hailed him as a ‘destroyer’ in midfield – he still needs to be managed carefully, having not featured since the beginning of December.
The 26-year-old must be eased back in to ensure he doesn’t suffer a setback in his recovery, with a substitutes’ appearance possibly making sense against Villa.
Phillips needs to be in peak condition for the true business end of the season in April and May, at which point the matches really will be make-or-break moments in Leeds’ quest to avoid relegation.
In other news, one Leeds target has been advised to stay put. Find out who it is here.
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