Marcelo Bielsa confirms stance on Leeds United’s Raphinha fiasco and first words on Dan James

Leeds United could be without Raphinha this weekend – but not because the player is injured or suspended.

Heavily-reported across the football world over the past few days, Raphinha’s maiden Brazil call-up has been more trouble than it’s worth.

The 24-year-old earned his first involvement with the Selecao last month, but coronavirus restrictions upon returning to the United Kingdom have prevented him from taking any part in Brazil’s three games during September.

As a result, the Brazilian Football Federation (CBF) have lodged a complaint against Leeds United – and four other Premier League clubs – with football’s governing body, asking FIFA to impose a five-day ban on Raphinha representing the Whites, which would rule him out of Sunday’s fixture.

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This is in relation to Leeds refusing to release the player – despite chairman Andrea Radrizzani’s insistence it was the winger’s decision to remain at Thorp Arch these past two weeks.

To this point, it has been unclear whether the Premier League’s Brazilian contingent would be permitted to play this weekend.

Marcelo Bielsa has weighed in on the debate, in response to various questions regarding the contentious topic during his pre-Liverpool press conference.

“If a player leaves his club of origin for ten days, one day before the game he has to play in his league, when he comes back he can’t play that game and he has to quarantine, he didn’t leave for ten days, he has left for 21 days.

“For four weeks to a month, there are three weeks he won’t be able to play for the club he belongs to. There are international breaks in September, October, November. In those three months if he’s not going to participate for three weeks it’s impossible to think that nothing’s going to happen.

“The national teams have to take on board or develop their activities and they have to maintain that feeling that the footballer wants to represent their country.

“It is convenient for the industry that there are a lot of games. They don’t care if the players are saturated, get injured or play badly because they play so much.”

Marcelo Bielsa greets Jurgen Klopp following the 1-1 draw at Elland Road last season
Marcelo Bielsa greets Jurgen Klopp following the 1-1 draw at Elland Road last season

Speaking 48 hours before the contest, Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp stated: “I can say what I know – I don’t know at the moment, we will see. There are meetings going on,” with regards to his Brazilian players’ availability.

The Irish Independent suspect the Reds will call on Caoimhin Kelleher this weekend amid Alisson Becker’s expected absence.

At 22 years-old, the Irish goalkeeper does not have a weighty back-catalogue of first-team experience, but will be protected by a world class defence, as it was revealed Virgil van Dijk would be fit after limping off for the Netherlands on international duty.

A potential solution to Leeds’ Raphinha conundrum would be blooding Daniel James for his Whites debut.

Despite signing for the club just over a week ago, with only one or two days of training under his belt at Thorp Arch, James may well be involved in some capacity this Sunday.

Marcelo Bielsa confirmed James could be involved: “I think the decision to bring in James was the correct one by the club. He will be available this weekend – he’s a player who can play on either side that combines his ability to unbalance the opponent. He passages into the empty spaces, considering his speed.

Leeds are still in search of their first league win of the campaign and could go four matches without victory in the Premier League, should they leave Elland Road with anything other than three points.

The situation surrounding Leeds and Liverpool’s Brazilian players is a complex one, and although it doesn’t quite level the playing field, it does limit both sides from calling on their best eleven as it stands.

Liverpool visit Elland Road ahead of a 4:30pm kick-off this Sunday.

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