By George Overhill

22nd Oct, 2022 | 2:10pm

Liam Cooper to return to Leeds United XI for Fulham, Joe Gelhardt may get chance - Phil Hay

Liam Cooper will “surely” return to the Leeds United starting line up for the Fulham clash specifically to deal with the threat of Aleksandar Mitrovic, believes Phil Hay.

The Whites captain dropped to the bench for the deflating defeat at Leicester City on Thursday night (20 October) as Jesse Marsch’s attempt to save his legs backfired when the Foxes targeted Junior Firpo and Diego Llorente down the left.

Serbian striker Mitrovic is in great form this season with eight Premier League goals already, and The Athletic journalist believes Cooper should come back in to face off against him, while in attack the usual suspects should be included but Joe Gelhardt could be the only deviation.

On the Friday episode of The Phil Hay Show (21 October, 35min 30sec) Hay said of Mitrovic: “He’s going to be an incredibly key player on Sunday. They’re going to have to manage him extremely closely.

“I think Liam Cooper will start… for that reason. I think aerially he’s best-placed to compete with Mitrovic.”

Later in the show he added (46min): “If Cooper starts, and surely he will, he’s going to have a very busy day there.

“[Marsch] needs to revert back to the high percentage choice of players and simple decisions. So play [Jack] Harrison, [Luis] Sinisterra, [Brenden] Aaronson.

“You’re going to have to go with [Patrick] Bamford up front I think, unless he wants to give Gelhardt a go, and I think if you’re going to give anybody else a go other than Rodrigo I think it has to be Gelhardt.”

Vital

Having lost at Leicester it heaps pressure on the visit of the Cottagers on Sunday (23 October) as anything other than a win could easily leave Leeds United in the relegation zone.

While the hierarchy appear to be minded to give Marsch time to rescue the situation after doing so on the final day last season, they surely won’t hang around too long if this year he appears to be walking into the same predicament.

Cooper coming back in seems a given because while his form has not been great since he returned from injury Llorente’s has been worse, and Pascal Struijk seems likely to be tied up at left-back long term since Firpo is apparently so far off the pace.

Crysencio Summerville has been the youngster who has benefited the most from the manager’s selections of late, but he hasn’t yet been able to make a telling contribution.

The senior attacking men have gone off the boil en masse recently as well, while the startling stagnation of Gelhardt’s situation has made a January loan exit a genuine question.

He could be the wildcard that makes the difference in a game where the Whites have to get something, and that something really needs to be a win.

In other Leeds United news, one key loan move for a Whites player has gone heavily south and could now be cut short in January says Hay.