Five changes Bielsa should consider for Leeds's trip to Nottingham Forest
Following Leeds United’s defeat to Wigan Athletic on Saturday, Marcelo Bielsa’s side are just three points clear of the chasing pack in the Championship promotion race.
And they face a potentially defining spell in their season over the next couple of weeks. The Whites travel to the City Ground to face Nottingham Forest this weekend.
They then follow that game with a clash with Brentford at Griffin Park the following Tuesday.
Both sides sit inside the play-off places. So Leeds could emerge from the next two games in a fantastic position in the second tier. Or they could find themselves back in the pack and playing catch-up for one of the first times this season.
Leeds are on a bad run. They have lost three of their last four as the similarities with last season continue.
So what could Bielsa do to get the side back on track? Here are five potential changes he should consider making for the clash with Forest…
Illan Meslier for Kiko Casilla
Kiko Casilla came in for criticism following Wigan’s winner at the weekend. Pablo Hernandez’s deflection looped over him and into the back of the net. For many, it was a final straw.
The Spaniard has not been as impressive in recent weeks after a fantastic start to the season. And with Illan Meslier producing a fantastic performance on his debut in the FA Cup at Arsenal, it may be time for the Frenchman to get a chance in the league.
Stuart Dallas for Luke Ayling
Luke Ayling has produced some outstanding performances this season. And it was his assist that helped complete the turnaround against Millwall recently.
However, you could understand why supporters may argue that Stuart Dallas has been Leeds’s best performer at right-back this season.
The Northern Irishman was lauded during the opening weeks of the season. Some anticipated that he would go on and win Player of the Year at a time when Leeds were playing teams off the park.
He has not been as impressive in central midfield. And with Ayling struggling at times against Wigan, it may be time to move him into the defence once again.
Jamie Shackleton for Stuart Dallas
With Dallas perhaps moving to right-back, Leeds need someone to come in and fill the void in midfield. Kalvin Phillips is still suspended and Adam Forshaw is still injured. So it may be a good time to hand Jamie Shackleton another chance.
Shackleton has impressed every time he has played for the first-team, regardless of which position he finds himself in.
And anyone who watched Leeds’s under-23 draw with Sheffield Wednesday on Monday will agree that Shackleton looked sharp. His energy could make a big difference against a side like Forest.
Swap Helder Costa and Jack Harrison
One change that does not involve anyone being dropped would be switching the wings Helder Costa and Jack Harrison feature on.
Harrison has been excellent down the left. And Costa did a lot of fantastic work on the opposite side against Wigan.
However, Harrison’s best performance this season arguably came against Arsenal when he was deployed on the right. Meanwhile, Costa’s final ball came in for a lot of criticism against the Latics at the weekend.
So perhaps, swapping the pair over – even if it happens midway through a game – may be an option worth considering as Leeds look to become a little more unpredictable.
Jean-Kevin Augustin for Patrick Bamford
Patrick Bamford continues to divide the supporters right down the middle. Some are adamant that the criticism of the striker has been unfair, while others believe that he is too wasteful to lead the line for a promotion-chasing side.
Bamford took a risk with his celebration against Millwall last week. And unfortunately, his apparent response to the criticism backfired as he then missed a number of chances against Wigan.
It is a gamble to put Jean-Kevin Augustin straight into the starting lineup. He did not make a huge impression for the under-23s on Monday. And honestly – like all of these suggestions – it is incredibly difficult to imagine Bielsa making the change.
In fact, it may be unfair to use Augustin in a game against a promotion rival at this stage.
But it should certainly be considered in the coming days as Leeds will probably not get the same number of chances on Saturday, so they cannot afford to let opportunities pass them by.