This article is part of Football League World’s ‘The Verdict‘ series, which provides personal opinions from the FLW writers regarding the latest breaking news, teams, players, managers, potential signings and more…
Leeds United captain Liam Cooper has not trained with the side since he was forced off in the Whites’ 1-1 draw with Luton Town on Tuesday night, according to teammate Kalvin Phillips.
The central defender picked up an injury defending a corner early on and was replaced by Gaetano Berardi in the 12th minute.
Phillips told Leeds Live yesterday that Cooper had not trained since Tuesday night but that he was hopeful his teammate would be available for the trip to face Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park tomorrow.
Cooper has not been without injury issues this term but has been a key man when fit – featuring 33 times as Leeds climb to the top of the Championship while conceding the fewest goals in the division.
But will the Whites miss him if he’s absent on Saturday?
We asked our FLW writers for their thoughts…
It’s going to be tough for Leeds in Blackburn as it is, but without their skipper, it becomes a much more difficult task to pick up three points.
He holds their defensive unit together, allowing Ben White and Luke Ayling, in particular, to play their own game.
Leeds missed him as he went off versus Luton, with Cornick’s goal perhaps prevented if he’d been on the field; White could’ve closed the ball down, safe in the knowledge his captain was covering the space in-behind.
It’s a blow and Leeds will be sweating on some uplifting fitness news in the next 24 hours.
This is obviously a massive blow for Leeds in their hopes of picking up all three points at the weekend.
Cooper is Leeds’ leader in defence and he has performed superbly well this season, and the centre-half’s absence in the middle of defence will surely be felt by everyone this weekend.
Gaetano Berardi is more than capable of stepping up to the task at Ewood Park, but Cooper is one of Leeds’ best players and I don’t think Berardi is anywhere near his level in terms of defensive quality.
If he is fit, then Bielsa cannot afford to risk him and throw him in unless he’s 100% ready, as that could aggravate his injury even more which would be detrimental.
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It’s certainly a blow, as him and Ben White have built up a great partnership and understanding with each other.
There is still a chance he will feature as per Kalvin Phillips’ comments, but Leeds will be wanting all their key stars playing in this pivotal remaining games so it’s not exactly ideal if he is out.
However, Leeds are likely to see Gaetano Berardi step in at centre-back in place of Cooper, and it’s a role he’s actually become quite adept at, so it’s not the end of the world.
Bielsa will be hoping Cooper is available nonetheless though, as Blackburn will be a tricky encounter with Mowbray’s men possessing some pacy, dynamic attackers that could hurt the Whites.