Stuart Dallas is a doubt for Leeds United’s trip to Derby County after suffering a calf strain on international duty with Northern Ireland.
Dallas was sent home early ahead of last night’s World Cup qualifier between Northern Ireland and Germany, and Leeds are assessing his fitness with their Championship season set to resume at Pride Park on Saturday.
Head coach Garry Monk established a settled side last month, naming an unchanged line-up for three successive games before the international break, but Dallas’ setback could force him into an unwanted switch at the weekend.
Dallas regained his place in Monk’s team after struggling for form in the early weeks of the season and temporarily dropping from United’s plans. Monk left the 25-year-old out of a number of his matchday squads, saying Dallas needed more time to recover after a busy summer in which he featured at Euro 2016 with Northern Ireland, married his partner and missed most of Leeds’ pre-season schedule.
United are now awaiting the return of Chris Wood from New Zealand’s friendly against the USA in Washington last night in the hope that the striker has avoided any problems.
Captain Liam Bridcutt, who will be missing for up to eight weeks with a fractured foot, was Monk’s only major worry prior to the international break and Gaetano Berardi appears ready to return to first-team contention following a lengthy spell out with a hamstring injury.
Monk, meanwhile, called for cool heads and a sense of perspective in his dressing room as Leeds readied themselves for the game at Derby.
The club’s boss insisted he and his players should make no assumptions about their prospects this season on the basis of a fine run of form last month but said five wins from seven games had allowed them to “believe in what we’re doing.”
Leeds fought back from a troubled start to the term after the first international break, adding 12 points to their Championship tally and progressing to the fourth round of the League Cup.
Monk, who will serve a one-match touchline ban when the campaign gets going again at Derby, emerged from a spell of heavy pressure to find a vein of consistency and quickly silence talk that his job at Elland Road was potentially under threat.
The club’s run include a first streak of four successive victories for the first time in more than six years but Monk played down United’s improved form with a quarter of the season gone.
“There’s a long way to go,” he said. “A long, long way to go. We just stay balanced.
“It’s good to get excited, we all want to be excited and get our teeth into something you feel is there, but inside we keep it to a game at a time and maximise that game or that one week; try and get three points and worry about the rest after.
“The players just need to focus on that one game. You come to business end of the season and you know what you’re fighting for. All of those things become clearer at the end of the season but that next three points is the only thing to worry about.”
Monk, however, admitted he was satisfied with Leeds’ progress, saying: “You keep refining that plan and making it better. It was a difficult start but I tried to trust (the plan) and come through that, and we have done. We’ve come through it in the last month.
“That should give belief to the players that no matter what happens - because we will have ups and downs - we keep believing in what we’re doing. We know that we can win games and be very competitive. That’s been proven and that’s the good thing about the last seven games.”