Leeds United

Liam Cooper and Diego Llorente will be Marcelo Bielsa’s first-choice centre-back pairing at Leeds United for the rest of the season.

That is the view of former England and Aston Villa striker Gabby Agbonlahor, speaking exclusively to Football Insider after Pascal Struijk was axed from the starting XI against Sheffield United on Saturday.

The 21-year-old has emerged as one of the Whites’ most improved players this season and had started all but one game since Christmas before the visit of the Blades.

Robin Koch, signed from Freiburg last summer for a fee rising to £13m, is also fit again after a lengthy absence and was on the bench last weekend.

Speaking on his decision to replace Struijk with Cooper, Bielsa told Leeds Live: “In the training this week I saw Cooper was at his best. When we confirmed that he was still in this manner, I opted for him.”

Cooper had missed Leeds’ previous two games and Scotland’s recent games with an illness.

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And Agbonlahor has insisted he will retain his place alongside Llorente going forward.

He told Football Insider correspondent Connor Whitley: “The captain’s come back in, he’s the captain.

“It’s a good balance. One left-footed centre-half and one right-footed centre-half in Llorente who I thought looked very good in the game.

“Sometimes you’ve got to accept being on the bench when the captain’s back and he did very well as well.

“It’s a nice balance. Cooper’s captain, he’s left-footed and he’s a good defender. Llorente’s on the right. 

“It’s just a good balance and I’m sure it will stay like that.”

Leeds United

Bielsa also has Robin Koch back fit meaning he has all four centre-halves to choose from for the first time this season.

He explained after the game that Koch, Llorente and Struijk could also be deployed in a holding midfield role.

In other news, Noel Whelan has tipped Leeds United to raid a bottom-three Premier League club for an £18.5million player.