Marcelo Bielsa must hand Alfie McCalmont a starting role in Leeds United’s Carabao Cup tie at home to Stoke City, after the Potters clash was scheduled during a run of what is now four games in ten days.
The Whites begin the run of four games in the space of ten days on Wednesday night, when Bielsa guides the first-team to Brentford. We then face Stoke in the first of two clashes with Nathan Jones’ bet365 Stadium natives, before Swansea City travel to West Yorkshire ahead of the international break.
The lack of time to adequately rest could see signs of fatigue start to creep into the first-team already, as Bielsa’s high energy training and playing style clearly took its toll on the squad last season as they ran out of steam toward the end of the campaign.
Having exciting youth players on hand like McCalmont should give Bielsa plenty of options to turn to in the EFL Cup this year, and he must continue to utilise their potential, after awarding the Northern Ireland U21 international his competitive Whites debut in the tournament against Salford City.
The boss introduced McCalmont alongside Kalvin Phillips in a holding midfield role away to the Ammies, and the youngster kept things simple yet impressed with his passing range while refusing to be overpowered by more experienced opposition.
Bielsa deployed the rarely-seen teen in our pre-season friendly against York City, as well, after he excelled under Carlos Corberan last term with our Under 23s on route to the Professional Development League North Division title.
His second-half cameo at Salford only offered a slight window into what the Leeds product is capable of, but McCalmont has been earning the admiration of not only the Elland Road faithful, but also his United teammates, with Stuart Dallas hailing his compatriot following his debut.
“He’s a good player,” Dallas noted, as quoted by the Yorkshire Evening Post.
“I think you can see in the games that he has played this season at York in the first pre-season game and obviously coming on the other night – he looked like he had played there for a long time.
“He’s still growing as well, he still has a lot of development, and he came and trained with us actually in the summer at one of our summer camps at Northern Ireland, and he didn’t look out of place there.”
Bielsa turning to McCalmont against Stoke could be a great chance to see how he fairs against a higher level of competition, and can then consider his inclusion in Championship fixtures if he impresses in the Carabao Cup.