By Dan Carter

13th Oct, 2023 | 3:10pm

Ilia Gruev tipped to be key for Leeds United role following slow start at Elland Road

Ilia Gruev has been tipped to play a key role for Leeds United following the international break after a slow start to the season, according to William Jackson

The Bulgarian midfielder was a late summer arrival at Elland Road, joining Daniel Farke’s side for a reported £4 million from Werder Bremen [Daily Mail, 31 August], but is yet to find his feet in the Championship having only played three minutes in short cameos this season. 

Farke has plenty of options in the middle of the park with Glen Kamara, Archie Gray and Ethan Ampadu all impressing so far this season, but Leeds Live reporter Jackson believes that the condensed fixture schedule in the coming months will see the 23-year-old given his first proper taste of English football. 

Writing for Leeds Live on Friday (13 October) he said: “On October 21, Leeds will begin a run which will see them take to the field 15 times in just over 10 weeks, including seven games in December, and while Farke isn’t a fan of rotation, the schedule dictates that the manager will have to look to the extremities of his first-team squad.

“Changes will have to be made in that time to keep things fresh and to limit the risk of injuries and Gruev will surely be one man the German hands out an opportunity to. Farke has already spoken about managing Gray’s workload, while Ampadu has been an ever-present for the Whites so far, playing every minute of every game.

“It seems highly likely that Gruev could have an important role to play, then, between now and January and when he does get the opportunity, he’ll be keen to grasp it with both hands.”

Take the chance

The Championship season is one of the biggest fixture schedules in the footballing world and part of the challenge of being successful in the division is managing to navigate the busier periods of the campaign without experiencing a drop in performance. 

Leeds United have prepared for that challenge by building a squad with remarkable strength in depth and during the next few months they are going to need all of their players to contribute in some way and that will see Gruev get his first real involvement. 

He may not have featured heavily during the season so far, but this is a player who made 31 appearances in the Bundesliga this season and is a full international, so given time you would imagine that he will be able to adapt to life in England’s second tier. 

With three games in the space of a week after Leeds return from the international break, Farke may well opt to deploy the 23-year-old sooner rather than later and with another couple of games with Bulgaria under his belt, Gruev should be fit and raring to impress the Elland Road faithful. 

In other Leeds United news, former Whites target Kai Wagner has been tipped to be available as a free agent in the coming weeks