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Leeds captain Liam Cooper back as Premier League football returns to Elland Road

Liam Cooper
(Image credit: Mike Egerton)

Marcelo Bielsa will welcome captain Liam Cooper back to his starting line-up with open arms for his side’s first home Premier League game of the season against Fulham.

Leeds host their first top-flight fixture in 16 years at Elland Road on Saturday after announcing themselves on the big stage in thrilling fashion last week at Liverpool.

Centre-half Cooper missed that 4-3 opening-day defeat and also sat out Wednesday’s disappointing Carabao Cup exit to Hull, but is ready to return after a calf injury.

“He’s a natural leader,” Bielsa said. “He’s very well respected by all his team-mates without exception.

“The captain has the obligation to bring everybody in the team together.

“Although he’s closer to some players, like all human beings who have certain preferences, the captain should care about everybody and integrate everybody and he’s a leader of this nature.

“Like (Luke) Ayling and (Stuart) Dallas, who are players of similar ilk.”

Bielsa has no new injuries and will revert back to his strongest line-up for the visit of Scott Parker’s Fulham after making 11 changes for the midweek penalty shoot-out defeat to Hull.

Club record signing Rodrigo’s performance in his first start against Hull was one of few positives on a disappointing night for Bielsa and his fringe players.

The Spain forward was full of running and despite appearing to be on a different page at times, showed some classy touches in a disjoined team display.

“He’s already ready,” said Bielsa of the £27million signing from Valncia. “I agree with your analysis, your diagnostic of his performance.

“He won’t start the game at the weekend, but he’s in a good condition to start if we want him to.”

Rodrigo, right, will not make his first Premier League start for Leeds on Saturday

Rodrigo, right, will not make his first Premier League start for Leeds on Saturday (Phil Noble/PA)

Patrick Bamford, who scored Leeds’ second goal at Anfield, will resume his quest to prove his doubters wrong by returning to the side to face Fulham.

“He (Bamford) has the required level to play in the Premier League,” Bielsa said. “But you have to show these things rather than declare them.”

Leeds are still looking to strengthen after promotion having added only Rodrigo and German centre-half Robin Koch to their first-team squad.

It has been reported that talks with Udinese over their Argentinian midfielder Rodrigo De Paul have stalled and that an offer has been made to Dinamo Zagreb for teenage defender Josko Gvardiol.

Bielsa declined again to comment on transfer speculation, adding: “I don’t like to talk about speculation as a lot of things can happen.

“I would rather talk about players after they have arrived and not beforehand.”