Noel Whelan has claimed that Leeds United youngster Pascal Struijk is set to break into the first team at Elland Road this season.
The 20-year-old is regarded as one of the brightest young talents at Leeds and although he is yet to make his debut for the first team, he has appeared on the bench on four occasions, including once in the Championship this season.
The Dutch centre-back has been one of the standout players for Leeds’ Under-23s over the past few seasons and was part of a select group young players who were handed new contracts last month.
Former Leeds striker Whelan has claimed that Bielsa has big plans for Struijk and is expecting the defender to get a chance for the first team at Elland Road this season, as he is expecting injuries and suspensions to play their part.
“Struijk is highly thought of by Bielsa and his staff. He is one option for the bench. Marcelo Bielsa tends to go for the more experienced players rather than the young ones in defence,” Whelan told Football Insider.
“I would expect to see Luke Ayling move across to centre-back if Ben White or Berard were unavailable. But, then you’re looking at Struijk.
“With the inevitable injuries and suspensions over the winter months, I would expect to see Struijk getting a go at some point. It seems Bielsa has big plans for him.”
Leeds have limited options at centre-back at the moment, with captain Liam Cooper currently facing time on the sidelines with a groin injury, although they do have Gaetano Berardi available for their next game after his recent red card was overturned.
I think Whelan could be right here. Marcelo Bielsa has shown throughout his time at Elland Road that he’s prepared to give young players a chance in the first team if they’re good enough and it seems like it’s only a matter of time before Struijk gets an opportunity.
He’s certainly got a lot of potential and Leeds may have no choice but to give him a chance soon if injuries and suspensions continue to play their part.
All Struijk can do is continue to work hard in training and make sure that if he does get an opportunity, he has to be ready to take that chance.