Garry Monk looks set to hold Liam Bridcutt back from a reunion with Brighton on Friday night after vowing to “do the right thing” with the timing of the midfielder’s return.
Leeds United’s captain has resumed full training after a three-month lay-off with a fractured foot and his recovery is a major boost to a head coach who has coped with a string of absences this season. Bridcutt was hurt in the second half of a 2-1 win over Blackburn Rovers in mid-September, only his fourth appearance since joining Leeds on a two-year deal from Sunderland.
United have surged up the Championship during his extended spell of rehabilitation and the club head to Brighton looking to close the gap on second place in the division and force themselves into the fight for automatic promotion.
Bridcutt was a two-time player-of-the-year at Albion in 2012 and 2013 and he appeared in the Championship play-offs with the Sussex club before leaving for Sunderland in 2014.
Monk admitted that Bridcutt would be “wanting to play” at The Amex – a stadium where United have never won – but United’s boss is likely to apply the same caution to the midfielder as he did to right-back Gaetano Berardi.
Berardi, who pulled a hamstring on the first day of the season, was put through an extended spell of full training and a number of Under-23 games before returning to contention in October.
Monk said: “I have to assess (Bridcutt) and have a good look at him. He’s been out for a long period so I don’t want to make any mistakes by rushing him back too soon. He’s an important player and he’s needed.
“I’ll have a good look this week and I’m sure he’d be wanting to (play) but I’ll make sure I do the right thing.”
Leeds are continuing to monitor Eunan O’Kane after a groin problem forced the Republic of Ireland interna tional to miss Saturday’s 2-0 win over Aston Villa but Liam Cooper is expected
to feature in the squad at The Amex after a minor ankle problem.
Meanwhile, Leeds’ West Yorkshire derby at Huddersfield Town has been moved for a second time to Monday, February 6 after being selected for a live broadcast by Sky Sports.
The fixture, however, will only go ahead on the new date if both clubs are eliminated in the third round of the FA Cup without the need for replays.
Potential fourth-round replays would prevent a Monday night Championship fixture, leaving Leeds and Huddersfield to meet on Sunday, February 5 instead.
The original Saturday date was re-arranged after Sky chose to televise a meeting between Huddersfield and Brighton on Thursday of that week.
Leeds are due to visit League Two Cambridge United in the FA Cup’s third round while Town will host Port Vale over the weekend of January 7 and 8.
United said other possible rearrangements were currently being discussed with various authorities including the police.