LEEDS UNITED head coach Marcelo Bielsa will again make full use of his squad for tonight’s Elland Road Carabao Cup encounter against Stoke City.
Jack Clarke, Helder Costa and Eddie Nketiah could quite easily step in for Pablo Hernandez, Jack Harrison and Patrick Bamford.
Whatever the personnel, Bielsa will continue to set up Leeds to attack.
Leeds continued their flying start to the new Championship campaign with Saturday’s 3-0 win at Stoke City in which United lined up with an altered formation with Kalvin Phillips dropping back from his normal midfield holding role to play alongside Ben White and Gaetano Berardi at centre-back.
Berardi replaced injured captain Liam Cooper and his back three was followed by another trio in front in Stuart Dallas, Adam Forshaw and Gjanni Alioski. Mateusz Klich sat behind Patrick Bamford, Pablo Hernandez and Jack Harrison but with space left for Dallas to surge down the right flank.
Hernandez, in a central role, supplied a gem of a through ball for the onrushing Dallas to fire the Whites into a 42nd-minute lead.
Bielsa has confirmed that changes will now be aplenty for tonight’s quick rematch against the Potters but the daring and exciting endeavour of United’s attacking football is here to stay.
“We always have to try to have six players to attack,” said Bielsa. “We have four players ready to defend. Then we put our players when we are in defence where the opponent put their players to attack.
“We avoid defending spaces where there isn’t any opponent, then it takes a different shape in each game depending on this.
“But, in the end, every player is fulfilling his function. Pablo is someone special in giving the last pass or the instruction of the ball.
“Dallas is a full-back with a high arrival into the opponents’ half or a winger who plays a little bit higher. So everyone is adding to the game with the skills they have.”
Bielsa made seven changes to his side for United’s first round Carabao Cup tie at Salford City and something similar looks on the cards tonight.
That will likely mean another opportunity to shine from the off for high profile summer recruits Nketiah and Costa, who are both awaiting their first league starts.
They came into the starting line-up in the 3-0 win at Salford with Clarke, Berardi, Gjanni Alioski, Jamie Shackleton and Leif Davis also coming in as Cooper, Barry Douglas, Forshaw, Dallas, Hernandez, Harrison and Bamford sat it out.
“The team we will play will be more similar to the team we played in the first round of the Carabao Cup than the one we played today,” said Bielsa after Saturday’s win.
He will be further lifted by news that the long-term future of midfielder Phillips looks set to be sorted soon.
Phillips’s representative, former Leeds player Kevin Sharp, says the possibility of an agreement on a contract extension looks ‘very promising.’
Negotiations are ongoing over a new deal for the 23-year-old, who was the subject of serious interest from Premier League clubs like Aston Villa in the summer when Leeds rejected an offer well in excess of £20m for their home-grown talent.
Club owner Andrea Radrizzani, director of football Victor Orta and managing director Angus Kinnear have all been involved and Sharp said: “It’s clear for all to see that the owner sees Kalvin as a major player in the squad.
“No matter how important he is, they want to get the best deal possible and I want to get him the best deal possible. Kalvin is really happy to stay and wants to sign a new deal.”
Saturday’s defeat to Leeds heaped more pressure on Potters chief Nathan Jones, who vowed to fight on and turn the situation around with his men stuck bottom of the Championship with just one point from five games.
Jones turned on his players after the midweek 3-1 loss at Preston North End and made six changes for Saturday’s visit of Leeds with England international Jack Butland and Wales international Joe Allen among those dropped.
Stoke were readily swept aside by United’s high press, free flowing football and Jones could be set to make further changes ahead of a task that he says will be even harder than Saturday’s league game.
“We’ll have to look,” said the Potters manager. “We’ll dust them down and see how everyone is. Leeds at home is a difficult game, Leeds away is even more so but it’s a big game.
“We have got to stay strong and we cannot wilt. You see real character now in players, in staff, in everything and that character has to come through because we have to change things.
“We tried something different on Saturday and it was very difficult. We have to make sure that we are ready for the next challenge.”