INJURY-RAVAGED Leeds United are assessing star man Raphinha’s fitness ahead of their return to Premier League action next week.

The highly-rated winger limped off towards the end of Brazil’s 4-0 World Cup qualifying demolition of Paraguay in Belo Horizonte on Tuesday.

Raphinha netted the first goal, had another ruled out by VAR and struck a post with a volley in a blistering display before being taken off eight minutes from the end after being on the wrong end of a heavy challenge.

United will be hoping it was just a case of bad cramp rather than a damaging knock and that he will be ok for the trip to Aston Villa on Wednesday where he will be in opposition to international team-mate Philipe Countinho, who also scored in the rout of Paraguay.

Steven Gerrard has Villa on the up and in contrast to Leeds, was busy in the January transfer window. In addition to Coutinho arriving on loan from Aston Villa, £25m was spent on Everton full-back Lucas Digne while Calum Chambers was snapped up from Arsenal on a free and Roma’s Robin Olsen came in on loan.

Leeds had a bid for Red Bull Saltzburg’s American playmaker Brenden Aaronson knocked back and also turned down the chance to sign either midfielders Donny van de Beek (Manchester United) and Harry Winks (Tottenham).

Both Leeds and Villa were knocked out of the FA Cup at the third round stage so won’t be in action in the competition this weekend although Villa will face Danish side Molde at Villa Park as preparation for the Whites’ visit on Wednesday.

The lack of movement in January has frustrated many Leeds fans who fear they may still get sucked into a relegation battle despite currently being six points ahead of the drop zone.

Although both striker midfield fulcrum Kalvin Phillips and skipper Liam Cooper returned to light training this week there is still no sign of striker Patrick Bamford returning to action any time soon.

Leeds badly missed last season’s 17-goal man in their last outing, a damaging 1-0 home defeat to Newcastle, and coach Marcelo Bielsa’s post-match news about the injured frontman’s prospective return was hardly encouraging.

The Argentinian said: “I have my doubts. I’m not sure. It’s not just about being able to count on him, it’s that he arrives in conditions to develop his game and a player who’s gone so long without playing, it opens up a question mark, after he is healthy, how long he needs to show his regularity.”

On a brighter note Adam Forshaw, Junior Firpo, Jamie Shackleton and Charlie Cresswell are expected to come into the reckoning to face Villa after recovering from injury.

United’s rearranged Premier League fixture at Liverpool will take place on Wednesday, 23 February (7:45pm).

The match was originally due to be played on Boxing Day but was postponed following a number of positive COVID-19 cases.

It means Leeds will face three games in six games as the Anfield clash is sandwiched in between home games against Manchester United and Spurs.