June 16, 2024

Leeds United's English-born Scottish defender Liam Cooper is treated by medical staff after picking up an injury during the English Premier League football match between Bournemouth and Leeds United at the Vitality Stadium in Bournemouth, southern England on April 30, 2023. (Photo by Steve Bardens / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No video emulation. Social media in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No use in betting publications, games or single club/league/player publications. / (Photo by STEVE BARDENS/AFP via Getty Images)

Junior Firpo was sent off on Saturday against Newcastle and the Leeds United defender will serve a one-match ban at West Ham this weekend – making Liam Cooper’s return to the team absolutely crucial before Sunday’s clash.

Firpo was at the thick of things once again. Winning a penalty which was missed by Patrick Bamford, conceding Newcastle’s second penalty, and then receiving a second yellow for a foul on Anthony Gordon just outside the box.

That red card means he will now miss the trip to West Ham – after being a crucial part of Sam Allardyce’s first two games. So, who comes in to replace Firpo will be a talking point ahead of Sunday. Cooper is aiming to be available.

The skipper has been missing since the trip to Bournemouth, Javi Gracia’s last game in charge. Having started his third game in a row, the Scotland defender pulled up inside the first half. He has since missed the next two games.

Allardyce said last week Cooper is hoping to be back for West Ham. But knowing Cooper’s injury record, it is difficult to predict if he will be fit enough to play – and indeed, start. Firpo’s red, though, makes it crucial he is able to play.

Firpo ban makes Cooper return absolutely crucial for Leeds
Leeds do have options. Pascal Struijk can obviously come in. But the Dutch defender’s form has been questionable of late. He started four games in a row under Gracia recently, but in that time, Leeds conceded a whopping 16 goals.

In Allardyce’s first game, he conceded a penalty. So, even if he is starting at left-back or in the middle, Leeds would rather Cooper. Even if that means Max Wober moves to left-back. Another option is that Jack Harrison drops in.

But, Harrison is so important in the final third that it would be a waste. It means that Cooper’s return is now massive, in order to put him in at centre-back and play Wober on the left. That seems to be our best option without Firpo.

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