With the games coming thick and fast over the next two-and-a-half weeks, managing injuries will be a vital part of Leeds United’s run-in.
Marcelo Bielsa was forced into two changes for his side’s 3-1 win over Blackburn Rovers on Saturday in what was the first of six games in 18 season-defining days.
Stuart Dallas and Helder Costa missed out at Ewood Park having both picked up injuries in the midweek draw with Luton Town, with Ezgjan Alioski and Barry Douglas coming into the side.
Under usual circumstances Bielsa is loathe to change his side, but with his hand forced Leeds were able to claim a seventh win in their last nine games and maintain their place at the top of the table.
Next up is Stoke City at Elland Road on Thursday, with Bielsa sounding confident Dallas and Costa would be available for selection again for the tea-time kick-off.
“They were close to playing today,” the Argentine said following the Ewood Park victory. “We will see if they can play on Thursday.”
Pablo Hernandez’s fitness is being closely managed following a hamstring issue, with the Spaniard restricted to second-half appearances from the bench in Leeds’ last three matches.
Bielsa opted to bring the 35-year-old on for the final 29 minutes in Lancashire, despite Leeds commanding a 3-1 lead by that stage.
“Pablo came on the pitch in the moment we thought we needed his play to manage the goal and the last pass,” Bielsa replied when asked if he was tempted to leave Hernandez on the bench.
“At that moment Tyler was weaker physically. Always when you have excused a player that should play in the 11 starters, that is always very important.”
Douglas’s performance replacing the previously ever-present Dallas at left-back was another encouraging narrative to come out of United’s 23rd win of the campaign, with Bielsa quick to praise the Scot, who had not started for Leeds since the January defeat to Arsenal in the FA Cup.
“In defence he had a good match, an efficient match. We were playing out, he is always correct. And even he didn’t attack a lot, he chose the right moments to attack,” he said.
Bielsa also agreed injuries and the form of Dallas at left-back in recent months are the main reasons why the former Wolves man has made just five starts this season.
“The position of left-back, he was injured,” he said. “After Dallas was one of the players with more impact in the team, he couldn’t get continuity playing. Maybe this was the reason that he didn’t play as much as he imagined.”