Leeds expected 4-2-3-1 to face Derby: Senior stars return in nine changes
By Matt Farr
Leeds manager Garry Monk is expected to make nine changes to his side for their upcoming clash with promotion rivals Derby on Friday.
Senior stars Rob Green, Luke Ayling, Charlie Taylor, Kyle Bartley, Liam Bridcutt, Eunan O’Kane, Kemar Roofe, Pablo Hernandez and Chris Wood are all set to return for Leeds.
Meanwhile, Marco Silvestri, Liam Cooper, Tyler Denton, Matt Grimes, Kalvin Phillips, Stuart Dallas, Alex Mowatt, Marcus Antonsson and Pontus Jansson will drop out – Jansson is suspended after picking up his 10th yellow card of the season.
Souleymane Doukara and Gaetano Berardi are the two players likely to retain their places in Monk’s starting XI from their last game.
Leeds took time out of their busy Championship schedule to take on Cambridge in the FA Cup third round on Monday, where they recorded a 2-1 comeback victory.
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With normal service resumed against Derby, Monk is set to welcome back many of his regular stars to the starting line-up in an attempt to maintain their good form.
Veteran goalkeeper Rob Green is expected to resume his goalkeeping duties after making way for deputy Marco Silvestri gainst Cambridge.
The former England international has kept nine clean sheets in the Championship from 25 appearances.
Charlie Taylor is expected to return to the line-up at left-back following a brief spell on the sidelines. He missed the last four games in all competitions with an Achilles injury, but could make his return against Derby.
Luke Ayling and Kyle Bartley also return in the Leeds defence, but Ayling will likely feature in the centre of defence due to the absence of the suspended Pontus Jansson. Gaetano Berardi, meanwhile, should slot in at right-back..
The midfield sees a return for the fit-again Eunan O’Kane. The 26-year-old was an unused substitute against Cambridge, having missed the last seven league games through injury. He has though, been back in training well in advance of the fixture, and is expected to make his first start since the EFL cup defeat to Liverpool in November.
Club captain Liam Bridcutt also returns, replacing the out-of-favour Alex Mowatt – whose future at the club remains uncertain. Bridcutt has made nine appearances for Leeds this season and has started the last three games.
Souleymane Doukara is the only member of Leeds’ attack to retain his place in the side from the Cambridge clash. The 25-year-old has contributed four goals and three assists this season, and is joined by returning trio Kemar Roofe, Pablo Hernandez and Chris Wood.
Hernandez is set to make his first appearance for the club as a permanent Leeds’ signing, having spent the first-half of the campaign on loan at the club from Al-Arabi. Leeds announced the deal on Monday.
Premier goalscorer Chris Wood will be welcomed back after scoring 16 times in all competitions this season.
A win can put Leeds as high as third, extending the gap over seventh-placed Derby to eight points. A defeat would bring to an end an impressive five-game unbeaten run, but would not see them lose their place in the play-offs.
In other Leeds team news, Monk has provided this update on Liam Cooper’s fitness ahead of the clash.