By Joe Ellis

8th Jan, 2023 | 7:10am

Jesse Marsch must hand Leo Hjelde Leeds United chance v Cardiff amid left-back problems

The hard slog of the Premier League finally relents on Sunday (8 January) as Leeds United head to South Wales for an FA Cup tie against Cardiff City.

The Whites may well look to make several changes to their usual side against the Bluebirds, who are struggling in the Championship this season, and that opens the door for one starlet to maybe make his presence known.

Leo Hjelde made his bow in the same competition last season as Marcelo Bielsa’s injury-ridden squad meant he had to come in and play at centre-half against a strong West Ham side.

On that day, he coped very well with the physical Michail Antonio and has made a handful of appearances since then but chances have been very limited this season.

The Norwegian, though, should be someone Jesse Marsch is giving a go in his first FA Cup game as Leeds United manager and especially after he impressed for the Under-21s on Friday night (6 January).

The young Whites were eventually beaten by Nottingham Forest 1-0 to end a long unbeaten run but Hjelde was exceptional at left-back with Yorkshire Evening Post journalist Joe Donnohue waxing lyrical about him on Twitter.

“Ambitious passing, defensively secure and carried a threat,” he said and Marsch, although unlikely to be swayed by a journalist’s opinion, will have been told by Michael Skubala about those who impressed.

With Pascal Struijk having been forced to play as a makeshift left-back all season due to Junior Firpo’s injury woes, there is no better chance to give the Dutchman a well-earned rest and test the teenager in the Welsh capital.

Max Wober will likely make his debut too so the boss may as well experiment all the way and try out some lesser-seen individuals.

In other Leeds United news, the club are prepared to ignore any January offers for this vital cog in the Whites’ machine despite interest from some very big sides.