HomeLatest newsPredicted Leeds United starting line-up for final pre-season friendly against Villareal

Predicted Leeds United starting line-up for final pre-season friendly against Villareal

Leeds United face their final pre-season test on Saturday, facing La Liga side Villareal behind closed doors.

The friendly will be the final opportunity for manager Marcelo Bielsa to run the rule over his squad before the Premier League season begins with a clash against Manchester United on 14 August.

Bielsa has been splitting his squad for recent games, with some friendlies giving the under-23s a runout and others providing senior players a chance to build match fitness.

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A senior squad is likely to be selected for the final friendly and with it being the last exhibition, Leeds may field the strongest starting XI they can from the players available.

Unfortunately, it has not been an injury-free pre-season for the Whites and Diego Llorente, Junior Firpo and Jamie Shackleton are all doubts for Saturday. Under-23 stars Charlie Cresswell and Joe Gelhardt have also suffered injuries and may not be available to link up with the first-team as they have done before at the weekend.

Leeds Live have attempted to predict Bielsa’s starting XI for the final friendly of the summer.

Goalkeeper: Illan Meslier

Meslier is highly likely to be Bielsa’s pick between the sticks at Old Trafford, therefore it would make sense to maximise his game time ahead of the new season.

New understudy Kristoffer Klaesson was on the bench for last night’s defeat to Ajax and may also play a part as a substitute. .

Right-back: Luke Ayling

The head injury sustained by Jamie Shackleton in Amsterdam leaves Ayling fairly uncontested at right-back, as the only other player in the senior squad comfortable there is Stuart Dallas and he may be required to plug gaps elsewhere.

Ayling was below par against Ajax but a return to form against Villareal would stand him in good stead for the new Premier League campaign.

Centre-backs: Pascal Struijk and Robin Koch

Diego Llorente may not be risked for Saturday after picking up a knock against Real Betis and Liam Cooper may not be as match fit as Struijk and Koch having missed out on the first two friendlies.

An argument could be made that Cooper should be included as a result of his lack of first-team action but Bielsa may wish to give Koch time at centre-back after spending time deputising for Kalvin Phillips in midfield.

Struijk has been ever-present in pre-season and appears to be firmly in contention for a start against Manchester United, therefore Bielsa may be keen for him to continue building sharpness.

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Left-back: Stuart Dallas

Leeds may be hesitant to risk Junior Firpo, who has reportedly picked up a minor knock, and they will of course have utility man Dallas to call upon.

The Northern Ireland international shone in midfield last season but is also comfortable at full-back and would be a sensible choice to fill in for the Spaniard.

Central midfielders: Kalvin Phillips, Mateusz Klich and Rodrigo

Phillips is crucial to the way Leeds play and his absence in midfield has been felt in pre-season, but he did make a return to playing in the defeat to Jong Ajax.

Ahead of the league opener, Bielsa may be keen for Phillips to feature in a strong senior side and reacquaint himself with his role in the first-team, therefore the England international may get the nod against Villareal.

With Dallas potentially required in defence and Adam Forshaw still being eased back in, Klich appears an obvious choice in the centre of midfield.

Rodrigo’s selection ahead of Tyler Roberts in the defeat to Ajax’s first-team suggests he is ahead of the 22-year-old and therefore could again be handed a start on Saturday.

Wingers: Raphinha and Jack Harrison

Helder Costa and Ian Poveda are yet to show they are capable of leapfrogging Raphinha and Harrison in the pecking order.

As a result, it would be surprising to see the first pair selected just a week before the first Premier League fixture.

Forward: Patrick Bamford

Bamford is heading into yet another season as Bielsa’s first-choice number nine and Leeds will be desperate for him to replicate his 2020/21 form when the campaign gets under way.

The forward has one less friendly under his belt than most having been absent against Blackburn Rovers, therefore Bielsa may be keen for the 27-year-old to put more minutes in the tank on Saturday.

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