Millwall v Leeds United – Stuart Dallas hailed ‘technically complete player’

Set for switch: Stuart Dallas.
Set for switch: Stuart Dallas.
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IN an unforgiving environment where Leeds United will be without two of their chief on-pitch leaders in Liam Cooper and Pablo Hernandez, players like Stuart Dallas can be worth their weight in gold.

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The Northern Ireland international has been one of the undoubted success stories at Elland Road this term, with his feats duly recognised by way of a recent new contract.

With Leeds down on senior options in central midfield today, with Hernandez, Adam Forshaw and Jamie Shackleton sidelined for today’s encounter at the New Den, Dallas is set to switch from the right-hand side of defence to the engine room – with Luke Ayling slotting into the backline.

Head coach Marcelo Bielsa admits he is delighted to be in receipt of such an adaptable and versatile player as Dallas, with his technical and physical qualities likely to be required against the managerless hosts this afternoon.

Bielsa observed: “It is not usual to find a player like that (Dallas).

“He can play on both sides, even if he is right-footed.

“He has the agility of a winger and is powerful as a defender. Technically, he is a complete player.

“He has enough aerial play to play on every level of the pitch. Even if he is a player of the sides, when he has to play in the centre he does not have problems.

“Probably, we are going to play Ayling instead of Dallas and Dallas instead of Shackleton. Or the other option is (Mateusz) Klich in the place of Shackleton and Tyler Roberts in the place of Klich.”

The New Den has proved a difficult venue for Leeds in recent times, even accounting for the jubilant scenes last season when an 89th-minute goal from Jack Harrison salvaged a point for the visitors in a 1-1 draw last September.

Prior to that, Leeds had lost on their last four visits without so much as scoring a goal, with their last victory in this quarter of South London coming by virtue of a 1-0 success in March, 2012, when Ross McCormack found the net.

That represents United’s only success on their last 10 visits, with eight games ending in defeat and a familiar story.

But despite that poor return, Bielsa is refusing to entertain any talk that visits to the New Den potentially psychologically affect Leeds players, while acknowledging the extent of the task in hand for the visitors.

The Argentine, well versed in hostile footballing arenas from his lengthy time managing back in his homeland, said: “In every stadium, you have a different atmosphere, but this will not decide whether you win or lose a match.”

Millwall first-team coach Adam Barrett, a no-nonsense centre-back in his playing days with the likes of Southend United and Gillingham, will take charge for the Lions following the departure of Neil Harris and his assistant David Livermore, who spent a brief playing spell at Elland Road.

Millwall are without a victory in their last eight games in all competitions since a 1-0 success over Sheffield Wednesday on August 17.