Leeds United’s Liam Cooper in race against time to face Derby County

Cambridge's Uche Ikpeazu and Leeds United's Liam Cooper (left) battle for the ball on Monday night. Picture: Mike Egerton/PA

Cambridge's Uche Ikpeazu and Leeds United's Liam Cooper (left) battle for the ball on Monday night. Picture: Mike Egerton/PA

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GARRY MONK remains “hopeful” that Liam Cooper will be fit to face Derby County at Elland Road on Friday but Charlie Taylor has already been ruled out with his ongoing Achilles problem.

Centre-back Cooper hobbled off with a knee injury during the second half of Monday night’s third round FA Cup win at Cambridge United - with Leeds already facing up to losing another of their centre-back’s through a two-match suspension to Pontus Jansson.

Cooper left the ground on crutches but Monk will assess the defender during training at Thorp Arch on Thursday, with the head coach remaining optimistic that Cooper could still be in line to face the Rams.

Taylor, though, who injured his Achilles in the Championship game at home to Brentford on December 17, will definitely play no part against Derby - a game which pits the Championship’s fifth against seventh.

Should Cooper be sidelined, right-back Luke Ayling would likely have to fill in at centre-back to partner Kyle Bartley at the heart of the Whites defence.

Monk said: “He (Luke) can cover that position so that’s obviously a strength but of course you don’t want to try and move players too much out of their positions.

“But we are hopeful that Coops will be okay and that we won’t have to move too many but if we do then obviously we will come up with the right way to do it.

“Because of the tight turnaround in games with the fixture list that we have been given, all of the players are on a second day of recovery.

“We did a bit of tactical work with the group but very minimal today so really it’s tomorrow that we will get the gauge on the group and who is fit and who is ready to play the games.

“We are hopeful that with Coops there’s a possibility of him making it.”

Asked if Taylor would be fit to face the Rams on Friday after a recent lay-off with an Achilles injury, Monk admitted: “Charlie won’t be.

“It’s difficult because it’s a day-to-day process.

“It’s an Achilles injury and it’s more down to soreness than the actual injury and it’s down to that daily process of monitoring Charlie and seeing when it can fully heal because there’s no point in risking a player to come back for a game and that might risk him being out for a longer period.

“He’s not ready for this game and that’s disappointing because we all want to see Charlie and we all want to see players out on the pitch.

“But we have to take it on a daily basis and assess him as we go along.”

Aitor Karanka.

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