By Russell Edge

19th Apr, 2018 | 4:45pm

Fan favourites return as trio axed: This Leeds XI will send Barnsley one step closer to drop


While Leeds United’s season has been lacking much joy, the Elland Road faithful could well have something to cheer on Saturday.

The Whites head into a Yorkshire derby against Barnsley with more than just three points at stake, with personal as well as regional pride falling the way of the victors.

For manager Paul Heckingbottom, it is the first time he will come up against his former side since leaving for Leeds in February, a decision which the Tykes seem not to have forgiven the 40-year-old for, and he will be looking to prove a point with what he hopes will be just the third win of his time with the Whites.

However, while pride is all well and good, the visitors will be doing their best not to become distracted by petty squabbles and focus on picking up three precious points, which will boost their survival hopes with just four games left to play.

However, defeat to their former manager, coupled with unlikely victories for Bolton and Birmingham, could leave them five points adrift of safety, and while Heckingbottom will not want to sink his old side any deeper, he must focus on securing victory for himself.

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As such, he should axe trio Paudie O’Connor, Ronaldo Vieira and Caleb Ekuban from the starting XI which lost to Aston Villa, in place of Pontus Jansson, Eunan O’Kane and Samu Saiz, the defensive and attack fan favourites returning from injury.

Jansson has been confirmed to be among a triple boost for the senior side and is the most likely to be fit for the visit of the Tykes, but other absences mean options at the back are limited.

O’Kane’s return to the side ought to help dominate the visitors’ midfield while Saiz, still suffering a muscle niggle, should be risked to help provide the cutting edge missing for so long up front, with Kemar Roofe moving back into a centre forward role as he tops the scoring table at Elland Road.

Heckingbottom might not want to see his old side suffer, but that line up is enough to blow past the Tykes, sending them deeper into the mire, and giving the fans something to cheer once again.

In other Leeds United news, one exit-linked figure has been handed a massive boost about his future at the club.

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