TYLER ROBERTS and Kemar Roofe have been feted for their contributions so far this season for Leeds United, but it will not have escaped the attentions of studious observers that they have yet to feature together in the league.
The striking pair teamed up for a brief late cameo in the EFL Cup win over Bolton Wanderers in August, but both have ploughed their own furrow otherwise – although that could change today.
Roofe, sidelined since the end of August with a calf injury, is back in the fray ahead of today’s high-noon meeting at Ewood Park where the visitors will be backed by a travelling army of over 7,600 supporters.
Recently-capped Wales international Roberts has impressed up front in the absence of Roofe and while some expect August’s Championship player of the month to return to the starting line-up today after firing four goals in Leeds’s first six games of 2018-19 it may not necessarily be at his stand-in’s expense.
An additional factor to consider is the absence of the injured Jack Harrison on the right with Roberts offering a ready-made option to compensate.
On the return of Roofe and what it potentially means for Roberts, head coach Marcelo Bielsa said: “We have two possibilities for one same position. They also can play together.
“Both can play as strikers or both can play, one as a number nine or another as a winger.
“When you have competition with two players for just one position it (also) makes both players better.
“If you have a player who is becoming weaker because of the competition with someone else it means we did not choose the right player because professional players are specialists as they compete with opponents, the difficulties of the game and also their team-mates because you have more players than positions.”
The availability of another talisman in Leeds’s outstanding early-season form in midfielder Pablo Hernandez represents another selection poser for Bielsa ahead of tonight’s Roses game..
The assiduous Argentinian pores over a mass of data when reaching his conclusions regarding a returning player’s potential involvement from the start or otherwise, but following his gut-instinct is another consideration.
“We have many tools to evaluate the performance of each player: the physical performance, the technical performance and the expressions of personality,” the one-time Argentina and Chile manager observed.
“When you take into account all these possibilities the margin of mistake becomes smaller, but we have to admit that intuition is also important in our job.”
Today’s game sees Leeds face a Rovers side who have been beaten at home in the league just once – by Sheffield United last time out – since September 2017 and Bielsa is conscious of the threat that the hosts’ pose to his side’s unbeaten away record in 2018-19.
He said: “It is an opponent with experience. It is not easy to play against them. They have a good balance between their individual skills and their competitiveness.”