Patched-up Raphinha set to put his body and Leeds United’s autumn hopes through the wringer

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Unable to complete 90 minutes for Leeds United in his last two outings, a patched-together Raphinha will see his durability stretched in the next fortnight.

Right when the Whites need him on the field as much as possible, with the hope he can again start this weekend despite a nagging hip issue, the Brazilian looks unlikely to be resting any time soon.

After dragging himself through a very tough week before the West Ham United match, during which many club officials doubted he would make it, Raphinha was outstanding at Elland Road.

The 24-year-old is managing his way through another week of training to make it for Watford, with hopes high Marcelo Bielsa will confirm his availability tomorrow.

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Once the clash with the Hornets is dispensed with, there is unlikely to be time for healing and resting. Brazil play at 12.30am (UK time) on October 8. Raphinha’s nation expects him to be there.

After the fiasco around players failing to report for duty with red-list nations this month, it is believed no such problems will scotch call-ups next week.

While the finer detail is yet to be published, it is expected the measures put in place around players, such as Raphinha, returning from red-list countries will be agreeable to all parties.

The winger will be desperate to prove his fitness and make his international debut, if not against Venezuela on October 8, then Colombia on October 10 or Uruguay on October 15.

That final date with Uruguay raises the issue all European clubs have had to deal with, not just during a pandemic, but for years with their South American talent.

The Brazil match kicks off at 1.30am (UK time) on the Friday and then Leeds play, not at home, but more than four hours down the road in Southampton, at 3pm on the Saturday.

There will be 37-and-a-half hours between those matches kicking off. That’s an interval which includes a 12-hour flight and a five-hour time difference for Raphinha too.

The former Rennes man must be managed carefully by the respective medical staff on either side of the Atlantic to ensure he is as ready as he can be for St Mary’s Stadium, though it may just be too big an ask to have him start in Hampshire.

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It would be wrong to deny Raphinha such a proud moment again and nobody in West Yorkshire would dream of doing so.

As Bielsa has mentioned more than once in recent weeks, the current issues around the scheduling of matches go right to the top.

There are too many games and it is the players who suffer. This is a winger who has not been able to complete 90 minutes in the last two matches.

A winger who is about to embark on 24 hours of air travel (not including the flights to Venezuela and Colombia), at least warm-up and prepare for three matches in the space of a week, before flying to the UK with 37 hours of downtime to then play in another crucial match for his employer.

These are the perils of modern football at the highest level, the price Raphinha, Leeds and Brazil have to pay for competing with the world’s best players on the biggest stage.

There is no obvious solution to the problem without ruling Raphinha out of matches, either. Club and country must grin and bear it, with hope this talent does not suffer and dent United’s autumn hopes.

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