By Noel Whelan

1st Jan, 2022 | 8:30pm

Leeds employee issues surprise Bamford claim ahead of Burnley clash

Patrick Bamford could slot straight into the Leeds United XI against Burnley tomorrow despite his lack of match fitness, according to Noel Whelan.

The former Whites striker, speaking exclusively to Football Insider, claimed the 28-year-old could be “very important” in defence as well as in attack against the Clarets.

Speaking yesterday (31 December) Marcelo Bielsa confirmed Bamford is “healthy”, but suggested the striker would not be part of the starting eleven to face Burnley.

He also revealed that Junior Firpo, Dan James, Diego Llorente, and Robin Koch have returned to fitness ahead of Sunday’s game.

Despite Bielsa’s update, Whelan suggested Bamford would be pushing to make a surprise start.

“If you’re fit enough to be in the squad then you’re ready to play, it’s as simple as that, and I expect it could happen,” the Leeds ambassador told Football Insider‘s Russell Edge.

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Beggars can’t be choosers, and we’re in a bit of a predicament at the moment.

“We need to get these players back to match fitness, and what better way to do that than playing them for the majority of the game against Burnley.

“If you asked Patrick whether he would rather play in the under-23s or come straight back in against Burnley – he’d be itching to play in this game, and he’ll be very important.

“You’ve got to be hesitant, but he’s had a period of recovery now to build up fitness.

“He can help us not only in attack but defensively as well. We know they are a big physical side, they don’t hold back from putting the ball in the box.”

Leeds United sit 16th in the Premier League.

The Whites have won just one of their last five games.

In other news, Nottingham Forest in advanced talks to sign Leeds starlet.