Marcelo Bielsa has told his pre-Aston Villa press conference – as per Leeds Live – that Robin Koch could return to action on early March, but has suggested four of his first-team stars could miss the clash on Saturday evening at Elland Road.
Leeds play host to Dean Smith’s side on Saturday at home, coming into the match with their tails up having eased past Southampton with a 3-0 win – thanks to goals from Patrick Bamford, Stuart Dallas and Raphinha, the latter a superb free-kick.
Germany international Koch suffered a knee injury on his debut against Liverpool, before struggling on with the problem until it proved too much against Chelsea in December. He is in the latter stages of rehab following an operation.
Bielsa expects Koch to return in the first week of March – but Saturday’s match against Villa will come too soon. Bielsa also ruled out Kalvin Phillips and Rodrigo from the clash, but could not give a definitive answer on Mateusz Klich’s availability.
“Klich is doing pretty well,” Bielsa said. Asked if the Pole would be okay to play against Villa, Bielsa said: “I don’t know. Rodrigo and Kalvin won’t be available this week. I suppose in the first week of March,” Bielsa continued, on Koch.
“He’s [Koch} within the margins expected. Koch is a player very optimistic, very happy, very hard working. Also, very serious in taking his responsibilities. I have a thought he’s going to be back with the same power and performance as before.”
Leeds used a back-three against Southampton, combining Diego Llorente – who completed his first 90 minutes – along with Liam Cooper and Pascal Struijk. Mateusz Klich, Stuart Dallas and Luke Ayling played as a three ahead of the back three.
If Klich is unavailable, then they may change to a back four and bring Struijk into holding midfield. Jamie Shackleton played in that position against Arsenal, while Stuart Dallas’ versatility could give Bielsa another option. It remains to be seen.
Ian Poveda remains injured, while Gaetano Berardi continues to work hard in training. Adam Forshaw is hoping to play this season.