By Craig Scott

2nd Oct, 2022 | 10:37am

Phil Hay: Liam Cooper to return to Leeds United XI, Diego Llorente axed as team news predicted v Aston Villa

Liam Cooper will return to the Leeds United starting line-up to play Aston Villa at Elland Road on Sunday afternoon, according to Phil Hay.

Writing on The Athletic website, Hay reported that Cooper, 31, is in contention to make his first Premier League appearance of the season with Luke Ayling and Patrick Bamford also fit to return to the side.

It is understood that Stuart Dallas (leg), Adam Forshaw (ankle) and Archie Gray (toe) are the three players set to miss the game against Villa, which will be Leeds’ first in a month.

The Athletic journalist Hay said: “For Jesse Marsch, the options are good.

“Adam Forshaw has a twisted ankle and Stuart Dallas is still absent. Archie Gray fractured a toe during the break. But everyone else is fit and available, which gives him choices in various positions.

“I fancy Liam Cooper to come back into the defence after Diego Llorente’s mistakes at Brentford.

“Marsch also needs to decide whether it’s [Rasmus] Kristensen or Ayling at right-back (I think he’ll go Kristensen) and whether Patrick Bamford starts up top.”

Llorente out, Cooper in

Thank goodness Cooper’s back.

While some Leeds fans don’t rate the Scotland international, it’s great to have the club captain back in the side. And it’s even better to know that Llorente can be left out.

The 29-year-old’s form this season has been terrible.

He hasn’t been himself since his debut season at Elland Road, in truth. And even that was plagued by injuries on either side of some impressive centre-back displays.

Maybe the injuries have taken their toll on Llorente or the Spain international has just struggled to adapt to the Premier League.

Either way, Robin Koch and Pascal Struijk have done well on either side of him and Cooper’s return should add not only a lot more quality to the defence but also leadership.

Ayling will also bring that back but we’re going to agree with Hay and guess that Kristensen is now the new starting right-back due to the fact Ayling’s deal expires next year and he left us down last season.

In other Leeds United news, Forshaw has shared how Marsch ripped into one of his Leeds teammates in front of everyone at Thorp Arch.