West Ham

Noel Whelan has backed Pascal Struijk to be the Leeds United secret weapon to keep Tomas Soucek quiet at West Ham on Monday.

The former Leeds striker, speaking exclusively to Football Insider, suggested the 21-year-old’s physicality would help nullify the threat of the Czech midfielder.

Soucek, 26, scored in West Ham’s 2-1 win over the Whites back in December.

Struijk was named on the bench against the Hammers, with Luke Ayling named as a makeshift centre-back.

However, the young enforcer has made 12 consecutive starts and has featured as a defensive midfielder in the absence of Kalvin Phillips.

Bielsa has also been able to call upon Diego Llorente, who was injured for the reverse fixture against the Irons.

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Whelan suggested Leeds would now be able to cope with the physical presence of Soucek and the other West Ham stars.

Whelan told Football Insider assistant editor Russell Edge: “I think one thing now we’ve got is aerial strength. We didn’t have it beginning of the season really.

“Now when you look at it, with Cooper, Struijk, Llorente, Ayling, Bamford who comes back, you’ve got five players over six foot there. I think that really makes a difference, especially when you’re playing against a team like West Ham.

“They have five to six players dominantly over six foot, who are very good in the air. Dawson, very strong in the air, Soucek, very strong, even Antonio, strong in the air. All these players you’ve got to match up against.

“I feel a little bit more relaxed when it comes to set-pieces. We’ve got that aerial threat with Struijk to help combat that.

“It’s still the discipline of marking that sometimes get worried about. It’s okay having six-foot-tall but if you can’t mark properly, you’re still going to get punished.”

In other news, West Ham will have to beat Wolves to new centre-forward signing.