By George Overhill

22nd Jan, 2023 | 9:10pm

Phil Hay shares Liam Cooper injury update after Leeds United captain is surprise Brentford absentee

Jesse Marsch hopes Leeds United captain Liam Cooper will be back in training “next week” after he missed the Brentford match, Phil Hay reports.

January signing Max Wober made his first Premier League start and shone in the skipper’s absence, while Robin Koch was massively-improved alongside him as the Whites played out a stalemate at Elland Road Sunday (22 January).

The manager had said in his pre-match press conference on Friday (20 January, 13min 50sec) that Cooper “should be ready to go” when asked about him being a potential doubt, so it was a surprise that he wasn’t included in the match day squad to face the Bees, but the lay off doesn’t appear serious.

Reporting via Twitter on Sunday afternoon after the game The Athletic’s Hay wrote: “Cooper missing through injury today but Marsch hoping he’ll be back in training next week.”

Successful audition

Judging by the goalless draw the unexpected absence of the captain has unearthed the centre-back pairing that this Leeds United side has been crying out for in Wober and Koch.

The German paired with either Cooper or the hapless Diego Llorente has resulted in far too many open door policies in defence this season, and goals conceded with ease.

But with the new arrival alongside him Koch looked a completely different player, thwarting Ivan Toney, who almost single-handedly downed the Whites in West London back on 3 September, multiple times and generally looking a far harder prospect to get past.

It wasn’t a faultless performance though, as a late booking means he is set to miss the next match through suspension, which likely affords Cooper a chance to audition for the spot next to Wober that he otherwise wouldn’t have received.

The Austrian international was thought to have been bought this month primarily to take over at left-back, but Pascal Struijk remained there on Sunday.

A clean sheet has often proven difficult to come by in the past two seasons, let alone one where the back line looks quite assured, so with Luke Ayling having reclaimed his right-back spot there might finally be a blueprint for some stability in defence once Koch is available again, and Cooper could be set for a spell on the bench.

In other Leeds United news, the manager doesn’t trust one of his star players after making a “very strange” decision on Sunday according to a Sky Sports pundit.