Leeds boss Marcelo Bielsa wants to see Jack Grealish back in the Aston Villa line-up when the sides meet at Elland Road on Saturday evening.
Grealish was missing for Villa’s defeat to Leicester last weekend, with his absence sparking a controversy after news of his injury was effectively ‘leaked’ by Villa players and coaches removing him from their fantasy teams.
Dean Smith played down reports of a long-term problem, but it is unclear if the England midfielder will be ready to return this weekend.
“He is a great player who can unbalance you,” Bielsa said.
“But I always prefer that opponents have their best players available because even if that fortifies a team, and makes them more scary to face, it’s also a stimulus for us to face such players, to try to neutralise them.”
Bielsa has injury concerns of his own. Though he indicated Mateusz Klich could be available, both Rodrigo and Kalvin Phillips remain sidelined while Robin Koch is not expected back in training until next week.
Phillips has already missed three games with what was initially thought to be a minor calf complaint.
“When he got injured, like I told you, he had an option of having a quicker return, but his injury is in his calf and it’s in a place where we have to avoid a recurrence because that would make the situation worse,” Bielsa said.
“We’re being very cautious so that when he returns he returns for definite.”
Leeds will start this weekend’s match just one point behind Villa, looking to cement their place in the top half of the table and perhaps edge their way into the fight for Europe.
A second-half hat-trick from Patrick Bamford saw Leeds win 3-0 at Villa Park when the two teams last met in October.
It was a big win over a Villa side who had made a superb start to the season, one that indicated Leeds could compete in the Premier League, but Bielsa downplayed any long-term effect it had on his players’ confidence levels.
“The competition is long and unstable so it makes it hard for me to believe the effect of one game lasts a long time,” he said.
“In that game we showed a very high version of ourselves,” the Argentinian added. “In the 20 games since they’ve had ups and downs and so have we.
“This is their second year back in the Premier League and they’ve made corrections and that’s an advantage. Those corrections come from mistakes and it’s impossible to come from the Championship to the Premier League and not make mistakes.”
Leeds moved up to 10th with a 3-0 win over Southampton on Tuesday night, with all the goals coming in the second half.
After the match Saints boss Ralph Hasenhuttl complained that Leeds were “nasty”, committing tactical fouls in midfield to cut out counter-attacks.
But Bielsa denied the charge.
“If we made tactical fouls which stopped them counter-attacking then I understand his comment, but I sincerely didn’t think we made them,” he said.
“If you, who ask me the question, analyse the game and see the fouls, you will see if it’s fair or not. I think what the rules allow, you have to permit it…
“The rules can be used for the game to be fluid, which is the objective in which the rules were created. To make the game more beautiful, but they can also be used to within what’s allowed, to make the game less beautiful. This is legitimate.
“I sincerely don’t think we did this. If their coach said this, then maybe I am in the wrong.”
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