By Noel Whelan

18th Jul, 2021 | 9:00pm

Whelan tips 'hell of a jostle' at Leeds as two stars set for axe

Noel Whelan has claimed there will be “a hell of a jostle in pre-season” between the Leeds United centre-backs.

Speaking exclusively to Football Insider, the new Whites ambassador suggested it would be Diego Llorente and one other for the opening fixture against Manchester United on August 14th.

Marcelo Bielsa’s side boast Llorente, Liam Cooper, Pascal Struijk and Robin Koch as their senior centre-halves going into the 2021-22 campaign.

Four fit centre-halves was a luxury rarely afforded to Bielsa last season, with Llorente, Cooper and Koch all spending extended periods on the sidelines.

Whelan said team selection will be “really difficult” if all four are fit next season.

“It could be any of the four,” he told Football Insider correspondent Dylan Childs.

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“We are blessed with four quality centre-halves. I cannot remember a time where we have had this much competition in that position.

“It’s going to be a really difficult decision to make. Every single one has got a case to play.

“You have internationals in Cooper, Llorente and Koch and a great young player in Struijk who I thought was excellent last season. He really stepped up to the plate and showed what a fantastic centre-half he is. He just got better and better.

“It is going to be a hell of a jostle in pre-season for those two spots. I am excited by it.

“Llorente really showed what a top player he is when he came in. He got a good relationship going with Struijk. He also had a good one with Cooper as well.

“It is going to be a real tussle between the four of them. You just hope that none of them get any kind of injury that halts their pre-season. Competition is so important to get the best out of players.”

In other news, Phillips reacts as Leeds pull the plug on signing £10million-valued 24-year-old and move for two alternatives.