By Craig Scott

24th Dec, 2019 | 3:30pm

Alex Neil raves about Leeds player who has 'come on leaps and bounds' under Marcelo Bielsa

Preston manager Alex Neil has been raving about Leeds United midfielder Kalvin Phillips ahead of his side’s trip to Elland Road on Thursday.

Phillips, 23, has been widely praised for his form for Leeds over the last couple of years and speculation has linked him with not only a move to the Premier League [Daily Star] but also a potential call-up for England [TeamTalk].

The holding midfielder is without doubt one of the most important players in Marcelo Bielsa’s squad and Neil is fully aware of how much he has improved since the Argentine was appointed as Leeds manager last year.

“Both teams play through their No.6, who is relied upon to break up the game and be that extra link and their positions are pivotal to that sort of system and Kalvin Phillips has come on leaps and bounds since Marcelo Bielsa has come in and Ben [Pearson] has got better and better for us over the last few years and it will be really interesting to see how both of them play,” Neil said, as quoted by Preston’s official website.

Phillips is absolutely vital to the way that Leeds play as he sits in front of the defence, dictates play from deep and also shows a lot of aggression when off the ball.

If there is one player who is key to the way that the Whites play – it is Phillips.

According to stats by WhoScored, Phillips has averaged more tackles per Championship match than any of his team-mates [3.3] while no other midfielder has averaged more passes per game [57.8].

Phillips is a ball-winning midfielder who also has the technical ability to be able to control the game and make important passes that kickstart his team’s attacks.

Without him, Leeds would be in a much worse position than they are currently in and Neil is absolutely right to point him out as a key player before Preston make their way to West Yorkshire on Boxing Day.

In other Leeds United news, Brentford are plotting a swoop to sign a player who is set to exit Elland Road next month.