Leeds United will be without 33-year-old Pablo Hernandez tonight as they take on Derby County in a literal six pointer at the top of the Championship table.
Taking on our own six pointer is FLW writer Gary Hutchinson, answering six questions around the Spaniard’s absence and how Leeds United will cope without their talisman.
1) Firstly, how big of a blow to Leeds is it not to have Hernandez involved?
It’s a huge blow, even more so when you consider the players who have departed recently.
Both Saiz and Baker could have played in the role, but that won’t be possible given the recent manoeuvring by the manager.
Hernandez offers more than either of them though. He’s got knowledge and experience as well as the cunning he’s shown all season.
2) Has he been one of, if not Leeds’ most influential players this season?
He’s got to be in the top one or two. we’re not talking about performances alone here, Kemar Roofe would be up there if so as would Klich, but we’re talking about influence.
Hernandez is the sort of player the Under 23 graduates should look up to, and probably do. He’s into his thirties, still as fit as a fiddle and pulling the strings in Leeds’ attack.
For me, he’s their current Player of the Year. No question.
3) Bielsa suggested Tyler Roberts will play in the number 10 role in place of Hernandez, initial thoughts on that?
It’s a case of needs must isn’t it? I’m sure Roberts can play there, how well is another matter.
Nothing against the lad, he’s a talented player with a big future, but he’ll be playing out of position in a role normally occupied by a player who has plied his trade all over the world. it’s not a like for like swap.
4) Has Roberts got what it takes to fill the void left by Hernandez against Derby?
He has what it takes to do a job, yes. He has to have. he’s played in the first team before and is exciting on the ball. He’s got an eye for goal too and will eventually go on to have a strong career, either at Elland Road or beyond.
Right now though, in January 2019, he is a square peg in a round hole, a young man having a burden heaped on his shoulders because of the club’s odd transfer policy.
5) With this Hernandez news in mind, how do you see the game panning out?
With Leeds, you never can tell. That’s what is so exciting about them, those Under 23 players have stepped up and in the main, done well. Look at Aapo Halme, a player most fans would have not recognised in august but a first team player now.
Jack Clarke is another, a player most likely to be loaned out to a League Two side when the season kicked off, but now looking like he has the world at his feet.
You can never write this Leeds team off. Never. I can see them being resolute, compact and aggressive when they need to be. Don’t forget Derby have Mason Mount, Jayden Bogle and Harry Wilson, all just boys themselves.
6) Score prediction with Hernandez news in mind?
I’m calling it as a draw. Leeds are depleted, but with the Bielsa know how and the knack of turning an under 23 player into a first team regular, I think they can get a point.
However, if Hernandez played, it could have been a win.