Marcelo Bielsa has welcomed the return of Patrick Bamford and Luke Ayling to a Leeds squad seeking a “fortifying” second straight win.
Raphinha’s stoppage-time winner from the penalty spot against Crystal Palace on Tuesday gave Leeds just their third Premier League victory of the season and took them five points clear of the relegation zone.
Bielsa’s side now have another home game against Brentford on Sunday before a daunting run of fixtures sees them face Champions League finalists Chelsea and Manchester City away from home, Arsenal at Elland Road and Liverpool at Anfield.
“To win consecutively fortifies you,” Bielsa said. “When we focus on every game independent of who comes next, given the amount of fixtures we’ve played up until now, the points that we’ve got on the board are few and every fixture is an opportunity to balance our numbers.”
England striker Bamford has not played since mid-September with an ankle problem and Ayling has been sidelined for the same period with a knee injury, but both came through a run-out for the Under-23s on Monday.
Asked how much his side had missed Bamford, Bielsa added: “Just to say he was a player who scored one goal every two games last season is enough to show his importance.
“And even when he doesn’t score, he’s an important part of how the team functions.”
𝗧𝗲𝗮𝗺 𝗡𝗲𝘄𝘀: “It’s likely Patrick and Luke will be available on Sunday. Pascal has a knock around his hip, but we think he’ll also be available.” pic.twitter.com/gpromBkw6p
— Leeds United (@LUFC) December 3, 2021
Another important part of the Leeds side is England midfielder Kalvin Phillips, who retained his place in the starting XI against Palace after being controversially substituted at half-time of the 0-0 draw at Brighton.
Football pundits Jamie Redknapp and Tim Sherwood suggested that meant all was not well between Bielsa and one of his star players, but the 66-year-old Argentinian insists that was not the case.
“It’s difficult to express yourself over things that didn’t happen, that there’s nothing behind and that are expressed as a reality,” Bielsa said.
“There’s things that correspond to the private part of a relationship so perhaps the media talks about these things that are hidden but this is a next step. This was the spread of something that didn’t happen at all.
“The press, not only do they inform, but they have their legitimate need that what they tell wakes up interest and in that process, on occasion it happens that they invent realities to bring attention.”
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