Garry Monk is optimistic that Liam Cooper will shake off a leg injury in time for Leeds United’s clash with Derby County and avert a crisis at centre-back on Friday.
Cooper is nursing damage sustained in the second half of Monday’s FA Cup win at Cambridge United but is yet to be ruled out of Derby’s visit to Elland Road.
Monk is crossing his fingers over the defender’s availability with first-choice centre-back Pontus Jansson set to begin a two-match ban.
Jansson was booked for the 10th time this season at Cambridge, incurring an automatic and immediate suspension.
And his absence combined with Cooper’s injury could leave Kyle Bartley as the only available central defender on Friday.
Monk, who dismissed the possibility of signing cover in the transfer market, has the option of moving Luke Ayling from right-back.
But Cooper will be given as long as possible to prove his fitness for a major Championship fixture.
The 25-year-old left the Abbey Stadium on crutches.
“It was an impact injury, a clash of legs, so we’re hoping it’s not too serious,” Monk said. “It inflamed straight away so there was no risk from us.
“We took him off and we’re hoping it settles down and he’ll be ready for Friday.
“We have to deal with whatever’s thrown at us.
“It’s the hand we get dealt and we have to overcome it. Our mentality’s strong but we’re very hopeful that Coops will be okay.
“It’s nothing too serious and if he’s not (available) we’ll come up with something to make sure we adapt.”
Midfielder Eunan O’Kane was back in United’s squad on Monday evening after a month out with a groin injury.
And winger Hadi Sacko is expected to recover in time for the Derby encounter ahead of the weekend.
Leeds are continuing to assess left-back Charlie Taylor who has been on the sidelines with an Achilles problem since Christmas.