Injury problems are par for the course in football but the nightmarish succession of injuries which have manifested themselves at Leeds this season are exceptional to say the least.
Whether Leeds have been cursed by the footballing gods for Bielsa’s spying endeavours, are suffering physically from a gruelling pre-season regime or simply the victims of torrid bad luck, it’s fair to say the Championship pace setters have been stripped down to the bare bones at times this season.
Not only do Leeds have plenty of injury concerns to bear in mind heading into the weekend fixture with Rotherham, they will also be without Pontus Jansson through suspension following his controversial dismissal against Stoke City last weekend.
Gaetano Berardi’s return to action for Leeds United’s U23 side last night hinted that he would be in contention to step into Jansson’s shoes on Saturday afternoon, but he was forced off in the first-half with a fresh injury concern.
According to the Yorkshire Evening Post, Berardi could be seen hitting the dugout in frustration as he left the field, and it now appears that he will be ruled out of the trip to Rotherham.
With Leeds desperately short of options in central defence, Bielsa will only have one natural centre-back to call upon to partner alongside Liam Cooper, Aapo Halme.
There is, of course, the option of starting Kalvin Phillips at centre-back instead, but the impressive vein in which Halme has stepped up to the senior squad this season suggests he deserves another chance this weekend.
Halme has appeared comfortable in possession of the ball despite his inexperience, a strong defensive asset, and a surprising goal threat from set-pieces.
Standing at 6’5″, the commanding physical presence almost opened his Leeds account as a substitute against Sheffield United in December, but he did manage to score against QPR in the FA Cup earlier this month before he got himself on the score-sheet once again yesterday evening for the U23 side.
Halme is yet to start a Championship game for the club this season and it would be a telling indicator of Bielsa’s faith if he were to get the nod over Phillips on Saturday.
His defensive quality is obvious even if his experience is lacking, and the extra goal threat he provides in the penalty area will certainly be giving Bielsa plenty to think about as he weighs up his options ahead of the weekend.
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