Daniel Farke forced into early Leeds United team news giveaway as late return and altitude issue revealed

Leeds United manager Daniel Farke plans to be without Dominican Republic international Junior Firpo for the Whites' visit to Watford on Good Friday due to the scheduling of the Caribbean nation's international fixtures.
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Firpo made his debut for the Dominican Republic last week in a 2-0 win over CONCACAF minnows Aruba, finally earning a call-up to Marcelo Neveleff's squad after declaring his willingness to represent the country of his birth last year.

The Leeds defender has struggled with injuries throughout his time at Elland Road, leaving Firpo with little choice but to turn down potential international call-ups in order to prioritise getting back to, or maintaining, match fitness with Leeds. Since the beginning of 2024, however, Firpo has been in encouraging form and featured regularly under Farke, both of which have been factors leading to his maiden call-up this month.

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However, his involvement with the Dominican team could mean the Leeds full-back loses his place in Farke's starting line-up, at least for one game in United's Championship run-in. The Caribbean side kick-off against Peru in capital city Lima during the early hours of Wednesday, March 27, leaving the defender with a mammoth journey from South America back to the United Kingdom before Leeds face Watford on Friday evening.

"[We want] to have a good ten training days before the Good Friday game, in order to be perfectly prepared with the group that will stay with us and then also to hope and pray a little bit that all the others come back in a good mood and in good shape without injuries and also safe travels because the turnaround will be ridiculous," Farke said of his squad's preparations for the Easter schedule.

"We have to travel already on Thursday to Watford, and many of the guys will just be back on Thursday. Not sure if Junior Firpo will even make it before kick-off then because I think he just can be back Friday in the UK. So it's it will be a crazy turnaround."

Unless alternative arrangements are made allowing for a speedier return, Firpo is expected to touch back down on UK soil on Friday, after a lengthy return journey.

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Direct flights from South America to the British Isles are few and far between, often requiring a stop-off in the United States or Central America before heading on to London Heathrow Airport. From Peruvian capital city Lima, there are no commercial flights direct to the UK on Wednesday, March 27 or Thursday, March 28. However, there are flights which would require a change in Bogota, Colombia or Miami that could see Firpo return by Thursday evening or Friday morning. Depending on the duration of the lay-over, Firpo's route back to the UK will take somewhere between 15 and 20 hours, while traversing five different time zones, all of which casts doubt on his availability for Friday's fixture.

If the full-back is to play a part this weekend, which appears unlikely given Firpo will have spent several hours in transit after playing at high altitude in Peru, not exactly allowing for optimal recovery, he will most probably do so from the substitutes' bench. Lima's Estadio Monumental 'U' sits 908 feet above sea level, almost twice as high as English league football's highest ground, West Bromwich Albion's The Hawthorns, at 551 feet.

Therefore, in Firpo's place Sam Byram will most likely start at left-back having only been named in Farke's XI three times since the turn of the year. Firpo on the other hand has 14 starts in the first three months of 2024 and five assists to his name.

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