Leeds United boss

Noel Whelan has heralded Robin Koch for stepping up in the absence of Liam Cooper for Leeds United against Aston Villa on Friday night.

The former Leeds striker, speaking exclusively to Football Insider assistant editor Russell Edge, believes the German international has managed to replace the leadership of the Whites’ captain.

Marcelo Bielsa started the 24-year-old alongside Luke Ayling, who is naturally a right-back, at the heart of the defence in the win at Villa Park.

Cooper has missed Leeds’ last two games as a result of a groin injury suffered while on international duty with Scotland.

Whelan admits that the club captain is a big miss at the back but that Koch demonstrated the sort of leadership needed in his absence.

Whelan told Football Insider: “Robin Koch stepped up, he looked like a leader there last night at the heart of the defence, which is what you want. 

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“Sometimes that’s what brings players out, when you’re missing two big personalities and the captain in Cooper, someone’s got to replace that leadership and I think he did that magnificently again at the back, Robin Koch.

“I think that helps Luke Ayling, I thought the two of them were magnificent.”

Koch has been an ever-present in the Premier League for Leeds this season since joining from SC Freiburg over the summer.

As well as Cooper and Ayling, Bielsa has also used Pascal Struijk at the heart of the defence this term.

In other Leeds United news, the Whites are planning contract talks for a cult hero at Elland Road.