El-Hadji Diouf looks set to remain in reserve at Pride Park tomorrow as Leeds United plan ahead for a run of three home games in the space of eight days.
Diouf is expected to travel to Derby County with the rest of United’s squad after recovering from a groin strain but manager Neil Warnock admitted he was “loathe” to risk the Senegalese forward ahead of another congested spell of fixtures.
Leeds will play three times at Elland Road in the week before Christmas, hosting league matches against Ipswich Town and Middlesbrough and meeting European champions Chelsea in the last eight of the League Cup.
Warnock said the schedule would force him to rotate his squad, insisting Leeds “cannot use the same team in all of those three games”, and he is considering protecting Diouf tomorrow in an attempt to guarantee his availability for the Christmas period.
Diouf suffered a groin injury ahead of last weekend’s win at Huddersfield Town and was only named on the bench as part of a ruse designed to increase the perceived strength of Warnock’s squad.
The 31-year-old resumed training at Thorp Arch yesterday morning and could feature among the substitutes at Pride Park but Warnock said: “He told me that last year he had a similar problem and tried to play with it. In the end he was out for three weeks.
“I don’t think there’s any need for that at all and with three home games coming up I’d be loath to start him tomorrow as well.
“We’ve got three home games after Derby and we cannot use the same team in all of those three games.”
United’s unexpected run to the quarter-finals of the Capital One Cup – a run which has already accounted for Everton and Southampton – will see them play Chelsea at Elland Road on December 19.“That’s the least of my worries at the moment,” Warnock said. “But to play on both Saturdays and play Chelsea on the Wednesday night will take a lot of effort.”
Warnock’s line-up is likely to be unchanged tomorrow, though the Leeds boss is considering whether to replace winger Jerome Thomas with Ryan Hall in response to Hall’s influential performance as a substitute at Huddersfield.
The on-loan Southend United player came off the bench to create two goals and help seal a 4-2 win, United’s first victory away to Huddersfield since 1963. Leeds have another poor record to break at Pride Park having lost five of their last six games in Derby and failed to win there in 10 years.
A second-half goal from Jamie Ward inflicted a 1-0 defeat on Leeds last season and Derby have lost only once at home since the Championship term began in August.
Ward will miss this weekend’s match with a hamstring problem and County could also be without midfielder Craig Bryson and left-back Gareth Roberts.
Warnock said: “They’re very good at home but we’ve been to difficult places already and we hadn’t beaten Huddersfield since 1960-odd. Records are there to be broken.
“Everyone in this league is after a winning run and we haven’t really had one yet so to get three on the bounce is great. We’re not going to win every game but it’s up to us now to get results and points when we don’t play well. That’s what the Championship’s all about – scratching something out of tough games.
“I remember going to Derby with QPR in the year we went up (2009-10). We were 2-0 down in the 92nd minute and scored two in two minutes. Getting a point there changed the whole season and games like that stick in your mind. When you don’t play well, you have to scratch.”