By Alex McLeish

8th Jan, 2021 | 8:00am

Pundit Exclusive: Bielsa told to axe Leeds player after update via BBC

Alex McLeish has urged Marcelo Bielsa to axe someone to bring Liam Cooper back into the Leeds United starting XI against Crawley Town.

The former Rangers and Scotland manager, speaking exclusively to Football Insider, believes the 29-year-old will be able to get his fitness back up against the League Two outfit after missing three games through injury.

BBC Radio Leeds reporter Adam Pope, speaking on West Yorkshire Sport Daily, has reported there is a good chance of the Scotland international making Sunday’s FA Cup tie after recovering from an abdominal injury picked up in December.

Cooper missed the wins over Burnley and West Brom and the defeat to Tottenham in the Premier League, with Luke Ayling moved into a centre-back role in his absence.

With the natural centre-half potentially back in contention for Sunday, McLeish has suggested it is the ideal match to get him back up to speed.

“Crawley, if he’s fit to play, they should bring him back in the Crawley game,” McLeish told Football Insider.

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“The Crawley players, with all due respect, will not be the same level of Premier League strikers but if he goes into it casual, then he can get punished.

“We’ve seen a few huge upsets in the FA Cup over the years and my mate in Crawley, who’s a Crawley fan, will be hoping for a massive upset. From his point of view, he will be hoping the big man has a nightmare.

“I’m sure the Leeds physios are as professional as anybody else and they won’t allow him to go back in if he’s just half fit.” 

Cooper has played a total of 11 times across all competitions this season, having missed a total of seven games through injury.

Ayling has been joined by Pascal Struijk at the heart of the defence in recent weeks, with Robin Koch and Diego Llorente both out of action.

In other news, Football Insider can reveal Leeds United are hoping to beat West Ham to signing of giant defender.