By Craig Scott

21st Sep, 2022 | 11:10am

Leeds United v Aston Villa: Diego Llorente could be axed after Elland Road development - Phil Hay

Phil Hay has backed Liam Cooper to return to the Leeds United starting line-up after the international break ends when Aston Villa play at Elland Road in the Premier League.

Cooper, 31, is yet to play in the league this season due to injury but he did play 90 minutes for the Under-21s last Friday (16 September), scoring in their 6-2 Premier League 2 victory over Southampton’s Under-21s at Elland Road.

It seems the Scotland international is fit and ready to play for Jesse Marsch’s first-team again and with Villa next up at Elland Road on 2 October, Hay has backed the Leeds manager to drop out-of-form Diego Llorente in favour of the club captain.

“Cooper importantly [got game-time] because I would imagine there’s a decision to be made there about whether it’s Llorente who starts against Villa at Elland Road or whether Cooper comes back in,” said Hay on the latest episode of The Phil Hay Show podcast on 20 September (15m05s).

“Personally, I would be leaning towards Cooper coming back in but then again, I’ve always been a Cooper fan in comparison to a lot of other people and I do think the defence is far more sturdy with him in it, generally.”

Right move

Llorente has been wretched this season.

In almost all of his appearances in the Premier League, the former Real Sociedad defender has made a mistake that’s led to a goal.

Unfortunately, the 29-year-old seems to be on the decline with him looking worse and worse in each passing season he spends in West Yorkshire.

It’s a shock too because his start to life at Leeds was plagued by injuries.

But in between those injury spells, when he was fit, he looked a whole lot better than he is now when he’s fully fit and had plenty of games under his belt.

But he’s been awful and needs to be dropped.

Cooper’s return from injury is well-timed and the two postponed fixtures against Nottingham Forest and Manchester United before this international break have allowed him to get back up to speed, along with some of his teammates.

There’s going to be plenty of fixture congestion to come this season but at least we should have Cooper instead of Llorente in the defence when we do play those two sides.

In other Leeds United news, this youngster is seen as the future at Elland Road and there’s a plan in place for him to be promoted to the first team.