Former Scotland defender Alan Hutton believes Liam Cooper will return to Leeds United’s starting lineup to face Tottenham this weekend.
The Lowdown: Cooper absent after red card
The Whites captain has been suspended for the last three matches, having been sent-off in the famous 2-1 win away to soon-to-be Premier League champions Manchester City.
Cooper’s absence has seen Pascal Struijk impress at the heart of the Leeds defence though, leaving Marcelo Bielsa with a selection headache ahead of Saturday’s visit of Tottenham.
Leeds will be looking to bounce back from last weekend’s disappointing 2-0 defeat away to Brighton, before which they conceded just once across games against Manchester United and Liverpool.
In that match against Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side, Struijk recorded the most interceptions and clearances of any Whites player, as well as four tackles, via Whoscored, so one could certainly argue he doesn’t deserve to be dropped.
The Latest: Leeds skipper tipped to start
Someone who thinks Cooper will come straight back into the team at Elland Road is Hutton, who spoke to Football Insider about his reasoning behind that decision:
“Well he’s the captain, isn’t he? Normally, that’s the case they do come in.
“You usually find after a defeat, that’s when the changes happen. It wouldn’t surprise me if he came back in. They have been much better defensively, I must add. Off the back of a poor performance but they’ll be looking to put that right.
“Obviously, I want to see him playing and playing well because of Scotland. I think at the back is where Scotland need players and he can be a rock for them.
“It wouldn’t surprise me if he came in. I’m actually looking forward to this game because there could be goals in it, especially if Tottenham continue to play the way they are at the moment.”
The Verdict: Cooper should start against Spurs
While Struijk has done admirably in recent weeks, it still makes sense to bring Cooper back into the side, considering his leadership and quality.
A total of 222 appearances for Leeds speaks for itself, with the 29-year-old such a consistent player in the Whites’ journey back in the top-flight.
Had Leeds won again at Brighton it could have been argued that changing a winning team made little sense, but Bielsa will surely feel his skipper should return to the back-line.
With Struijk, Diego Llorente and Robin Koch all playing well when called upon, however, there is now pressure on Cooper to perform at a consistently high level, in order to keep his place moving forward.
In other news, Leeds have suffered a big blow between now and the end of the season. Read more here.
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