Leeds United have been dealt a “massive blow” after Raphinha was ruled out against Brighton, according to Noel Whelan.

The former Leeds striker, speaking exclusively to Football Insider, admitted he had hoped the 24-year-old had been working on his fitness during his absence from the side.

However, as confirmed by Marcelo Bielsa on Thursday, the Brazilian is struggling with a hematoma suffered in the 2-1 win over Manchester City.

Raphinha was forced off late on at the Etihad Stadium after a collision with Fernandinho.

Bielsa insisted it was “difficult” to judge when the winger would be back available.

He admitted there was no telling whether the hematoma, which has inhibited Raphinha’s mobility, would reduce quickly or slowly.

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Whelan insisted Helder Costa had failed to step up to fill his fellow winger’s boots in recent weeks.

As such, he admitted it was a “huge” blow to be missing Raphinha against Brighton.

Whelan told Football Insider assistant editor Russell Edge: “It’s a massive blow.

“We were hoping that within the two games that he’s missed, it was just a matter of getting him back to peak fitness and peak form, ready to join back in with the rest of the team.

“But it seems that the injury has become a little bit more serious than expected.

“When it comes to the football side of things, when you look at the right-hand side, how poor how Helder Costa has done since he’s come in, it makes a huge blow.”

Raphinha has sat out the draws against Liverpool and Manchester United.

He has contributed a total of six goals and six assists in 26 Premier League appearances this season.

In other news, Leeds United tipped to spend “big, big money” on new player contract deal.