Pundit Exclusive: Leeds youngster tipped to start on Sat & given new role amid early team news
Gabriel Agbonlahor has tipped versatile Leeds United star Pascal Struijk to start in midfield against Brighton & Hove Albion with Kalvin Phillips suspended.
Speaking exclusively to Football Insider, the former Aston Villa and England striker backed the 21-year-old to perform well against the Seagulls despite his previous performances in midfield this season.
Struijk filled in for Phillips against Aston Villa in October when the England international had a shoulder injury but was substituted after just 30 minutes after picking up a yellow card.
Phillips will miss the visit of Brighton as he picked up his fifth yellow card of the season against Spurs on January 2.
Struijk played at centre-back in north London and the two games before that amid a defensive injury crisis at Leeds.
He has partnered right-back Luke Ayling at the heart of Marcelo Bielsa’s backline with Liam Cooper, Diego Llorente and Robin Koch all unavailable.
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However, the early team news from Marcelo Bielsa’s media conference is that club captain Cooper, who returned against Crawley Town, is fit for Saturday and Llorente is also nearing full fitness again.
Struijk played in midfield in east Sussex but was one of three players replaced at half-time.
Asked by Football Insider whether he will retain his place given Phillips will miss the game after picking up five yellow cards, Agbonlahor said: “I think he’ll fill in there.
“I remember he played there against Villa and got took after 30 minutes because he got booked early.
“But I think he’s a good player. He showed he can fill in at centre-half too.
“I’m sure he’ll put in a good performance with Phillips suspended.
“I think that position is very important with the way Leeds play. They need that defensive midfielder to cover the ground and make the interceptions. I’m sure he can fill in nicely.”
In other news, Football Insider can reveal a club is in advanced talks to sign a Leeds United midfielder on loan.