Leeds handed huge survival boost as Phillips and Cooper in contention for Wolves clash


Jesse Marsch will try to convince Kalvin Phillips to stay at Leeds this summer as he prepares to welcome back his influential midfielder for the relegation run-in.

Phillips, 26, has been out since injuring his hamstring against Brentford in December but is set to return to the bench for Friday’s crucial visit to Wolves.

As revealed by Sportsmail this week, Newcastle, Aston Villa and West Ham are among the clubs keen on signing the England international, whose Leeds contract runs until 2024.

Kalvin Phillips has attracted interest from other Premier League clubs, including Newcastle

But while Marsch is yet to speak to Phillips about his future, the new Leeds boss admits he is desperate to keep hold of his stars, including Raphinha – who has been linked with Barcelona – and Patrick Bamford.

‘I haven’t spent any time with anyone talking about long-term futures,’ said Marsch. ‘For me it has been about living in the moment and prioritising what is important.

‘Those conversations can be had down the road once we establish a few more things. Those conversations are more for the club but I can always help.

‘Of course, I would love to keep guys like Kalvin and Patrick and Raphinha here as long as possible, so we will see.

‘Kalvin is clearly so well respected and liked. He is Leeds through and through and a big part of the identity of the team.’

Leeds head coach Jesse Marsch could be boosted by the return of key players following injury

Leeds head coach Jesse Marsch could be boosted by the return of key players following injury

Phillips returns from injury at the same time as captain Liam Cooper, who has also been out since picking up a hamstring injury in the same game with Brentford.

It is a major boost for Marsch, who also welcomed back Patrick Bamford from long-term injury in last Sunday’s dramatic win over Norwich, with his side now four points clear of the drop zone.

‘It is a big positive momentum swing for our group,’ he said. ‘Even when I first came, I knew that getting the three main guys back to full health was going to really dictate our success.’

Under old boss Marcelo Bielsa, Phillips played as the defensive midfielder in a 4-1-4-1 formation but Marsch expects him to reprise the slightly more advanced role he operates for England in his new-look system.

‘We had a good conversation about it and he said that actually it’s not that dissimilar from what they do with the national team,’ added Marsch.

Captain Liam Cooper could return for Leeds in their clash with Wolves tomorrow night

Captain Liam Cooper could return for Leeds in their clash with Wolves tomorrow night

‘He plays a lot in there with Declan Rice and they share a lot of responsibilities as a double six.

‘He is an intelligent guy so I think he’ll be able to adjust relatively quickly. The goal with all the players is to help them develop.

‘Kalvin, as good as he is, has room as a leader to grow. I am really excited to get him on the pitch.’

 ‘It’s a big positive momentum swing for our group. They’re both quality players and great personalities and will make us stronger and stronger.

‘We’ll see what the plan will be for their minutes (at Wolves), but just having them back in training is big.’

Marsch confirmed Joe Gelhardt – who netted a dramatic winner against Norwich last Sunday – is nursing a minor back problem and will be monitored, while Junior Firpo could be out for up to five weeks due to a knee injury. 

The American admitted club-record signing Rodrigo was a doubt for the Wolves clash but was ‘hopeful’ the forward would be fit to start.  

Rodrigo, who joined Leeds from Valencia for £27milllion in August 2020, has scored four goals in the Premier League this season.

Leeds have endured significant injury problems throughout the campaign, with star striker Patrick Bamford among the key players to have missed large parts of the season.

The England international has not completed 90 minutes for Leeds since September.  

Rodrigo, right, is a doubt for the Wolves game but Marsch is hopeful he will be fit to play

Rodrigo, right, is a doubt for the Wolves game but Marsch said he was hopeful he would play

‘Having three main guys back to health was going to dictate our success,’ Marsch added.

‘We have a good group, but we need our best players on the pitch.’ 

Leeds’ 2-1 home win over Norwich left them four points above the bottom three, although relegation rivals Burnley and Everton have games in hand.

Everton host Newcastle tonight, while Burnley entertain league-leaders Manchester City in their next match on April 2. 



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