Liam Cooper may struggle to get back into the Leeds United starting XI after the blossoming of Pascal Struijk and Diego Llorente’s partnership.
That is according to ex-Leeds star and lifelong fan Noel Whelan, speaking exclusively to Football Insider after the pair started together at centre-half for the 0-0 draw with Chelsea on Saturday.
Between them, the pair made 13 interceptions, won 11 out of 17 defensive duels and made 19 recoveries (Wyscout).
Cooper missed out on the matchday squad through illness, as confirmed by manager Marcelo Bielsa.
Whelan claims that the skipper is in serious danger of being frozen out of the starting XI upon his return if Struijk and Llorente continue to shine.
“There’s a serious case for Struijk and Llorente being the first-choice partnership,” he told Football Insider.
“The two of them covered each other well, were aggressive, and they are both very good on the ball.
“At the end of the day if you’re out of the team and two people come in and put a nice partnership together, show they have a relationship and are very solid together then absolutely the pressure is on Liam Cooper to get back in.
“Club captain or not, everyone is there to fight for their place and put in a performance.
“If Liam Cooper is fit on Friday, he may not get into the side because of the way the two have been playing together.”
Cooper has been with Leeds since July 2014 and is the club’s second longest-serving player after fellow defender Gaetano Beradi.
The 29-year-old has played 220 times for the West Yorkshire club, scoring nine goals.