By George Overhill

21st Oct, 2022 | 4:40pm

Pascal Struijk will return in place of 'lost' Junior Firpo for Leeds United vs Fulham - Phil Hay

Pascal Struijk will “100%” return to the Leeds United starting XI for the game against Fulham on Sunday in place of Junior Firpo, says Phil Hay.

The Athletic’s Whites reporter has shared that the young defender is expected to be fit again after missing the defeat at Leicester on Thursday night (20 October), which handed a first start of the season to former Barcelona man Firpo.

But after the Foxes targeted the only specialist left-back in the squad on their way to a 2-0 win, Hay believes it is clear that it was a mistake not to sign anyone at the position in the summer because Firpo looks “lost” on the pitch.

Speaking on The Phil Hay Show on Friday (21 October, 10min 50sec) he said: “[Leicester] were working that side of the pitch, and the second goal was essentially all about that. Get Firpo out of position, attack his area, force [Diego] Llorente to come wide and then recycle the ball as quick as you can to the other side of the box [for Harvey Barnes].

“You could see that goal coming over and over because of the weakness there.

“Part of me feels sorry for Firpo because he doesn’t seem to be able to get a steady run in the team. He does look lost. Tactically it doesn’t seem like he’s ever been able to make himself fit [in]… A large part of me thinks it’s not the answer.

“Struijk, from what I’m told, is very likely to be fit for the weekend. I think 100% he comes back into the team. I think he has to.

“But Struijk’s not a left back. I think that’s one area where the squad is incomplete.”

Damning

This was Firpo’s big opportunity to finally grasp his Leeds United career and instead it looks like it may have put an end to it once and for all.

Victor Orta and the hierarchy clearly felt that he was capable of manning the left side of the defence this season despite a shaky first season at the club last year, and neglected to add any competition.

So a reassuring performance at the King Power had the potential to take advantage of Struijk’s knock and belatedly fulfil those plans.

But to be perceived as the weakness in a United side that hasn’t won for two months now, and even worse, to prove that to be the case, it is going to be difficult for the 26-year-old to inspire enough confidence to get further chances in future.

Playing next to Llorente seems like an accident waiting to happen, and on a night when Jesse Marsch simply had to be targeting three points a loss has been highly damaging for both manager and team.

That Struijk, as a make shift full-back, is so clearly the preferred choice now is a pretty damning indictment of the failure to recruit properly at that position, and if fit Hay is surely right that the prospective Dutch international comes back in.

In other Leeds United news, Andrea Radrizzani’s justification to give Marsch more time despite terrible results has emerged.