Leeds United v Bristol City: Will Pontus Jansson make it, Will Huffer or Kamil Miazek and time to recall Samu Saiz? - Talking Points

FOUR days short of Leeds United's return to action this weekend, the YEP's Lee Sobot looks at a few key talking points ahead of Saturday's clash with Bristol City at Elland Road.

Tuesday, 20th November 2018, 11:18 am
Updated Tuesday, 20th November 2018, 12:09 pm
WAITING GAME: For Pontus Jansson, centre, pictured challenging West Brom's Tosin Adarabioyo in the 4-1 loss at The Hawthorns before the international break.

Will Pontus Jansson make it?

Straight to the most important imponderable first and things did not look good for Jansson after the Swede tangled with Harvey Barnes during the second half of the 4-1 defeat at West Brom before the international break.

The 27-year-old eventually managed to see out the game after receiving treatment on the pitch and Jansson then flew out on international duty to Sweden but the defender was sent back to Leeds for full assessments on the problem and a scan, naturally raising doubts about the centre-back being fit for the weekend's clash against the Robins.

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Even though Jansson's injury does not sound like a serious one, Leeds clearly need the talisman Swede fit as quickly as possible - with Gaetano Berardi and Luke Ayling both also out injured long term.

Without him, in the event of Bielsa playing two centre-backs then Kalvin Phillips seems the most likely next port of call to sit alongside captain Liam Cooper given Bielsa's strategy into moulding Phillips into excelling in that position though that has been part of a back three when called for, not as a two.

And be it as a two or a three at the back, thereafter, unless someone like Adam Forshaw shifts back, Leeds will be into the under-23s with 18-year-old Leif Davis named on the bench for the clash at The Hawthorns and seemingly preferred to Conor Shaughnessy.

Davis is essentially a left back but the teen who was signed from Morecambe in the summer has been playing at centre-back for the under-23s.

Hugo Diaz, Aapo Halme and Pascal Struijk are among the other options and indeed Halme, Diaz and Shaughnessy formed a back three axis to start the under-23s clash against Birmingham last Friday with Davis at left back. All very inexperienced, though, and Leeds need an injury to Jansson like a hole in the head.

Who will be back-up keeper?

In light of Jansson's issue, it could be said that the one department that Leeds can ill afford another injury in is at centre-back.

But the situation in goal is arguably even more perilous with Jamal Blackman having now returned to Chelsea having broken his leg last Friday playing for United's under-23s.

That has left Bailey Peacock-Farrell as the only recognised first team 'keeper and seemingly a toss up between inexperienced duo Will Huffer or Kamil Miazek in terms of who will sit on the bench.

Huffer, 20, would appear in pole position being an England Under-20 international though he has no senior club experience.

Miazek, a 22-year-old Pole, was formerly part of Feyenoord’s academy and gained a small amount of game time with Polish club Chojniczanka Chojnice during the 2016-17 season.

With the transfer window shut, Leeds must now wait until January before bringing in another goalkeeping option, even on loan, with the Whites only able to bring in emergency cover if Peacock-Farrell becomes injured or suspended, God forbid that should happen.

Is it time to start Samu Saiz?

The mercurial Saiz's importance to Leeds is obvious but it also came as no great surprise when the 27-year-old Spaniard was dropped to the bench for the 1-1 draw at home to Nottingham Forest after a frustrating run of games in the no 10 role.

Adam Forshaw instead came into the side to partner Mateusz Klich in the middle of the park with Saiz also staying on the bench for the subsequent clashes at Wigan and West Brom.

Leeds were impressive enough at Wigan and got the job done but it was a different story altogether faced with a stiffer test against the Baggies and the calls to restore Saiz to the side are obvious with the sparsely used Lewis Baker another option.

A change to the recent Whites XI, though, would likely mean doing without either Mateusz Klich or Forshaw with Klich being one of the revelations of the season so far and Forshaw by and large looking solid since restored to the side. Yet no other player has the trickery of Saiz and that could be the most crucial point.

Elsewhere, the debate as to who should start at right back without Ayling and Berardi also rumbles on which also links in with United's options out wide with recognised winger Dallas getting the nod at right back against the Baggies with Gjanni Alioski and Pablo Hernandez on the flanks.

Tyler Roberts and Jack Harrison had to make do with places on the bench with teen talent Jack Clarke not even in the 18, Harrison then coming on for Barry Douglas as Alioski switched to left back with Roberts on for a very quiet Kemar Roofe in the lone striker role.

Leeds need Roofe back firing on all cylinders from this weekend and Clarke remains an exciting option out wide for when Bielsa chooses.

Jamie Shackleton is the most obvious alternative as far as the right back conundrum goes with no sign of Lewie Coyle being recalled from Fleetwood Town.

When will Izzy Brown feature?

Marcelo Bielsa indicated earlier this month that Chelsea loanee Izzy Brown would likely have to wait until January before challenging for a first-team place given the long road back from tearing his ACL on loan for Brighton back in January.

But Brown then came through 45 minutes playing for United's under-23s last Friday with coach Carlos Corberan admitting Leeds had only planned to field the 21-year-old for half an hour.

That suggests Brown could be somewhat ahead of schedule on his return from injury and surgery and Brown is an England under-21 international who won promotion from the Championship with Huddersfield Town in 2017.

Leeds signed Brown believing he could provide strong competition for Saiz and the emergence of the Chelsea loanee looks like being a welcome tonic for Bielsa.

On the assumption that Saturday's clash against the Robins comes too soon for Brown which it surely will then an outing for United's under-23s at Sheffield United next Monday looks like the next step.

Can Leeds kick-on?

Who is fit and who plays where ultimately all lends itself to the same thing - United's quest to now kick on and add some much needed momentum to their promotion bid.

Leeds remain well placed in third - just one point behind second-placed Middlesbrough and three adrift of leaders Norwich City - but United's overall form has unquestionably dipped since their lightning fast start with Leeds having not won two in a row since August.

Yet seven of United's next eight opponents in this next block of games sit ninth or lower and three of them are in the bottom five.

Leeds also have the advantage of returning to action with back-to-back home fixtures against two out-of-sorts sides in Bristol City and Reading and victories in those contests are imperative in the build up to next Saturday's clash at fourth-placed Sheffield United.

It's not quite make or break or crunch time but Leeds are clearly approaching a very important period of nine fixtures in 39 days which will determine just what picture the Whites are looking at in the new year.

What the club then need to do in the January transfer window is another matter altogether but that will surely depend on these next nine games and also injuries of which United can do without any more of.