Leeds United fans would have been forgiven for scratching their heads when the Whites’ lineup for their clash with Stoke City on Thursday was announced.
Marcelo Bielsa brought Stuart Dallas and Helder Costa back into the side. That meant that Barry Douglas and Gjanni Alioski returned to the bench for the clash with the Potters.
The move seemed particularly ruthless given Douglas’s performance at Blackburn the previous week. The left-back was inspired at Ewood Park and seemed to do all he could to keep Bielsa from bringing definite Player of the Season candidate Dallas back into the team.
Alioski meanwhile, has been superb since the season’s resumption. And with Costa only providing one assist in the same time, it looked to be a gamble.
But, once again, Bielsa was vindicated in some style as Leeds went on to win 5-0.
Costa and Dallas were both excellent. In fact, many Whites fans suggested that the former had produced his best display for the club.
But there was arguably one moment that summed up how well Bielsa’s decision had paid off: Leeds’s second goal.
Leeds would have headed out for the second-half perhaps expecting Stoke to be more expansive than they had been in the first-half.
The Whites went 1-0 in front late on in the first-half after Stoke had looked to frustrate the home side.
So scoring a second goal looked particularly important for Leeds as they look to keep their promotion rivals at bay.
Bielsa’s latest masterstroke
They did not need to wait long. And it was thanks to a fantastic link up between Dallas and Costa.
The Northern Irishman produced a delicious through ball to Costa, who had made a smart and impeccably-timed run into the box.
Costa was perhaps a little lucky after his first touch. But he made the most of his fortune by prodding the ball home for his fourth league goal for the club.
It would have been no surprise to see many fans back Douglas keep his place and suggest Costa was, of the quartet with question marks hanging over their place in the side, the one who least deserved a starting spot against Stoke.
But Bielsa’s ruthless decision to bring Dallas and Costa back prove to be inspired, and the latest masterstroke from the Argentinian during his time at Elland Road.