Marcelo Bielsa will continue to face selection problems ahead of the visit of Derby County on Friday evening as Leeds United look to consolidate their advantage at the summit of the Championship table.
Discussion over January transfers and Bielsa’s relentlessly consistent rhetoric will continue to dominate the month, particularly if the Whites recent struggles continue in the coming weeks.
Injury concerns are once again driving the narrative and prompting fans to recommend signings at every given opportunity, but Bielsa’s insistence on internal promotion and improvement, which has been vindicated by the performances of a handful of youngsters, hints that acquisitions are more unlikely than probable.
Not only are Leeds facing the prospect of tackling the Rams without Barry Douglas, Pablo Hernandez and a whole host of senior players, they will also be without Kalvin Phillips who remains suspended after being shown a straight red card against Nottingham Forest.
The holding midfielder has been forced to fill in as a central defender of late, with injuries to Gaetano Berardi and Liam Cooper leaving Bielsa desperately short of options.
A rising list of absentees has handed another Leeds prodigy, Aapo Halme, the opportunity to step up to the starting eleven. Like Jack Clarke and Jamie Shackleton, Halme has showcased a top level of maturity and competency when stepping into the side, and his performances have given Sky Sports journalist, Simeon Gholam, reason to believe that he could start on Friday evening.
‘A suspension for Kalvin Phillips means Halme could be used in central defence again against Derby.
‘He is a big presence at 6ft 5ins and also is useful with his feet, fitting Bielsa’s requirements for a central defender well.’
The Finnish colossus is hugely inexperienced at this level but he has demonstrated enough promise on his recent outings to suggest he can be trusted in the hugely anticipated clash with Derby.
An added weight of importance is pressing on Leeds ahead of the fixture, with the need to break a three-match losing streak putting the players in a situation which they are yet to face this season, so Halme will certainly need to be at his razor sharp best to give his side the best possible chance of keeping a clean sheet.
And, if he does indeed keep his place in the side from the FA Cup defeat against QPR, his height could cause Derby all kinds of problems from set-piece situations, as it did when he notched his first goal for the club at Loftus Road.
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