Danny Mills has tipped Leeds United captain Liam Cooper to return to the starting XI against Crawley Town on Sunday.
Speaking exclusively to Football Insider, the former Whites and England defender suggested the FA Cup third-round tie could offer the 29-year-old a perfect opportunity to return to full fitness ahead of their Premier League clash with Brighton the following Saturday.
Cooper has not featured for the Whites since being replaced in the 72nd minute in their 6-2 loss to Manchester United last month.
Marcelo Bielsa confirmed in his pre-match press conference that both Cooper and Diego Llorente were returning to fitness but Cooper is more likely to start at the People’s Pension Stadium on Sunday.
It comes as a timely boost for the Argentine who has been forced to field a makeshift centre-back pairing of Luke Ayling and Pascal Struijk in recent weeks.
Ayling looks the most likely to be rested for the trip down south having missed just 20 minutes of Premier League action this season.
Asked by Football Insider whether he reckons Cooper will start on Sunday, Mills said: “He’ll just want to start playing as soon as possible.
“The intensity won’t be quite there like a Premier League game.
“I’m sure he’ll be absolutely ready, Bielsa wouldn’t let him play if he wasn’t.
“But also the club knows and Bielsa knows it’s not the most important game for the club this year.
“Are they going to go on and win the FA Cup? Who knows? There’s a chance, of course there is.
“More importantly, if that means he’s ready for the Premier League game the week after then even better.”
Cooper has started 11 games for Leeds this term and they have only kept three clean sheets when he has started, including one against bottom side Sheffield United.