By David Woods

29th Dec, 2019 | 6:00pm

Bielsa delivers Nketiah verdict & Bamford fitness update for Leeds mega clash v West Brom

There was one big surprise in the Leeds United line-up this afternoon.

Eddie Nketiah was given his first start in the Championship, with Patrick Bamford nowhere to be seen.

It was the opportunity Nketiah had been waiting for all season.

There had been no word about Bamford being injured ahead of the game, although he was subbed off after 64 minutes of the last game against Preston.

However, Athletic journalist Phil Hay tweeted to say that Bamford was suffering from a “slight quad injury” ahead of the game.

Bamford travelled with the squad for the game against Birmingham and Hay claimed that he is expected to be fit for the huge game against West Brom on New Year’s Day.

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This was confirmed by Marcelo Bielsa in his post-match press conference after a thrilling 5-4 win against Birmingham.

Bielsa said he was “hopeful” Bamford would be fit, but that he couldn’t be certain.

Nketiah didn’t score, didn’t see out the full 90 minutes and wasn’t at his best against Birmingham, although Bielsa had words of encouragement for him.

As quoted in the Athletic, Bielsa said, “I thought Eddie stepped forward. He came to Leeds with the goal of playing, for the opportunity to play, but he found it difficult. Today he did good things individually and he’s a player with a lot of talent. He puts the effort into the defensive play, not only the offensive play.”

The three points were huge today, with West Brom losing. It means Leeds go back to the top of the Championship.

That in itself might not be important – finishing in the top two is the aim – but being ahead of West Brom gives Leeds another buffer from the third-place side, currently Fulham. They’re currently nine points back.

We think that if Bamford is fit, he will come back in for Nketiah – he offers more in his all-round game and the game at the Hawthorns is vitally important to the season.

One thing we do know, Leeds will have to be better than they were today if they want to come away with the three points.

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