Leeds United centre-back Diego Llorente “needs” to come back into the starting XI for the “huge” upcoming match against Newcastle United.

That is according to former Leeds forward and lifelong Whites fan Noel Whelan, speaking exclusively to Football Insider ahead of the 12th-placed side’s trip to St. James’ Park on Tuesday.

Llorente arrived from Real Sociedad for a reported £18m in the summer but has so far been unable to make his mark amid various hamstring issues.

Leeds United defender

But the Spaniard made a goalscoring return for the under-23s on Monday and Whelan expects him to return after catching sight of events at Thorp Arch.

“Llorente has to come in,” he told Football Insider.

“We have had players playing out of position too often. Yes, they have done a job but it is time to start putting Dallas back at left-back and Ayling back at right-back. Bielsa can do that if we bring Llorente back next to Liam Cooper.

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“We need that balance at the back. If players are available now, they have to go into their natural habitat. It is as simple as that.

“The Newcastle game is huge. I am so happy that we do not have the Southampton game quite frankly.

“It would have come too soon and despite two damaging defeats I think we have a good chance at Newcastle.” 

Llorente has played just once for Leeds this season, in a 3-1 loss to Chelsea in early December.

He is a fully-fledged Spanish international with six caps to his name and Leeds fans will be hoping he can bring some much-needed solidity to a defence which has shipped 34 goals this season.

In other news, a top pundit has backed Leeds United to sign an “explosive” striker this January.