Leeds boss Marcelo Bielsa pleased with Raphinha contribution

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Marcelo Bielsa acknowledged Raphinha’s increasing influence on his side after Monday night’s 2-0 home win against Crystal Palace.

Raphinha is proving to be one of the Premier League’s bargain buys this season after arriving from Rennes for £17million plus add-ons in October.

The 24-year-old Brazilian forward has scored four goals and made as many assists in 17 appearances and earned more rave reviews for his ability with the ball at his feet after giving Palace’s defenders a torrid time.

“The dribble is always the most dangerous thing for a defence,” Bielsa said after Leeds had climbed into the top half of the table.

“It resolves all the problems that arise in when a team sits back. It’s an alternative to the combination play and, yes, this is difficult to find in some players.

“Of course, we desire a player who can dribble and resolve the situation without having to combine too much.”

Another offensive summer signing, teenager Joe Gelhardt, is edging closer to his senior debut after being named on the bench for the first time.

Plenty of hype surrounded Gelhardt’s arrival from Wigan in August and Bielsa indicated the England Under-18s striker is ready for first-team action.

“Gelhardt has been one of the better players in the under-23s,” Bielsa added. “Given the absence of Pablo (Hernandez), we thought that Tyler Roberts could play as a number 10 or as a striker and the same for Gelhardt.

“We follow every under-23s game closely, we constantly ask for advice from their manager and he suggested that we bring in Gelhardt. We thought that it was a correct recommendation.”

Bielsa confirmed Hernandez was left out as a precaution after sustaining “a minor muscular injury” in training.

The Leeds boss is also waiting to learn the full extent of Kalvin Phillips’ calf injury after the midfielder was withdrawn in the closing stages.

Palace, who remain 13th in the table, 14 points clear of the bottom three, were unable to build on successive wins against Wolves and Newcastle.

Boss Roy Hodgson admitted Leeds were deserved winners but was critical of the Elland Road pitch, which was re-laid last month.

“I don’t think our passing was good – the pitch was difficult for both teams which doesn’t help you when you’re the team chasing the game and trying to get back into it,” Hodgson told Palace’s official website.

“They are maybe more used to it. It’s not the reason we lost the game, but it may have affected the way we were able to pass the ball, which I didn’t think we did well enough.”

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