Gorolive.com – World Cup Videos & Highlights
The great and good of Leeds United have spread far and wide during the World Cup. Andrea Radrizzani and Victor Orta pitched up at the tournament in Qatar. Jesse Marsch went west for a wedding in Peru. A few players received World Cup call-ups, others got away to places like Dubai, and this week the bulk of Marsch’s squad are working on the Costa Blanca.
A training camp in Alicante on the south coast of Spain was the chosen alternative to the west coast of the USA where, until late October, Leeds expected to be spending this part of their World Cup break. America will wait until next summer, a very likely destination for pre-season down the line. A European base made life more simple at a time when the club could do without complicating it.
Leeds have three weeks until the football gets serious again and, minus the commercial duties which might have come with time in the States, their current schedule has the absolute feel of pre-season in December. Thorp Arch last week, as players came back together after a fortnight away from each other, saw double training sessions, the bread-and-butter of the early weeks of every summer programme. They have played behind closed doors already and will meet Elche, one of Orta’s old clubs, in the first of three public friendlies on Thursday.
The low number of call-ups from Leeds for the World Cup, stopping at three with Rasmus Kristensen, Tyler Adams and Brenden Aaronson, meant Marsch did not have to plan for this period with half a dressing room, though it would not be Leeds without a few flies in the ointment.
Patrick Bamford has missed the trip to Spain through injury. Junior Firpo is carrying a groin strain and was not due to join up until today. Diego Llorente needed medical treatment after breaking a hand in training on Sunday and Marsch is without two of his three senior goalkeepers, Illan Meslier and Kristoffer Klaesson, because both are carrying viruses. The experienced Joel Robles is expected to play in goal against Elche, fresh from his club debut in a League Cup defeat to Wolves.
Bamford was precisely the sort of player Marsch would have wanted with him in Spain, one of the players Leeds — two points above the Premier League’s bottom three and craving a smoother second half of the season — are telling themselves they can get more from.
Yesterday marked a year since Bamford’s last competitive goal and the impact of injuries on him has been so great that the conversations about World Cup contention which focused on him in early 2021 fizzled out completely by the time Gareth Southgate came to pick his group of 26 for Qatar. For 18 months, Leeds have been trapped in a cycle of trying to get the forward into a clear spell of solid fitness without success.
Once again, we are back to Bamford…
As other players were preparing to fly to Alicante last week, Bamford was undergoing assessments on an injury affecting his groin. He suffered it a week before the Premier League season paused, forcing him to miss Bournemouth at home and Tottenham away. Marsch and his training group made the journey to the continent on Saturday but the decision was taken beforehand to send Bamford for a minor procedure at the hands of a specialist in Munich. The 29-year-old is recuperating as Leeds start stepping it up, though the club say the operation was so small that he should be available to Marsch within a fortnight, a week before Leeds resume their season against Manchester City. But to this point of the campaign, their centre-forward is averaging just 30 minutes a game.
Firpo’s involvement has been even more limited — three appearances and only one of those a start in the Premier League — and it is not entirely coincidental that the two outfield players forced to miss all or part of the week in Alicante occupy the positions Leeds are looking at most closely ahead of the January transfer window.
The club want a left-back and are weighing up younger prospects who fall into their ‘anticipating talent’ bracket. As he has for most of the season, Pascal Struijk is expected to continue in that role when matches begin again and any new addition would arrive as competition to the Dutchman. Firpo remains part of Marsch’s plans, but in 18 months he has not played well enough or been available enough for Leeds to consider his role properly covered.
One comeback on the horizon is that of Luis Sinisterra. The Colombian winger suffered a foot injury in October but has gone to Spain with Marsch’s squad and is making good progress. Stuart Dallas — missing since breaking a femur during the final month of last season — is also in Alicante continuing his recovery, though work on returning him to first-team contention will run into the new year. Marsch’s World Cup players, meanwhile, are under instructions to link back up with Leeds next Monday. Kristensen and Denmark were eliminated in the group stages last week. Adams’ and Aaronson’s run with the USA ended in a last-16 defeat to the Netherlands on Saturday. All three players have been given a little time off to draw breath after Qatar.
For Marsch and Leeds, though, this period was about redoubled effort. A training camp in the USA would have included more travel and more corporate ideas on the home turf of the club’s minority shareholder and it was roundly agreed as results wobbled in October that a shorter trip and a stricter focus on training was in Leeds’ interests. The friendlies get going at Elche in two days’ time, with Real Sociedad and Monaco to come at Elland Road on December 16 and December 21. It will be back down to business before they know it.
(Top photo: Visionhaus/Getty Images)
FIFA World Cup 2022 Highlights – Gorolive.com