Leeds United change to QPR risk assessment with squad player ready and willing for call

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Leeds United and Daniel Farke have, until recently, exercised a cautionary policy when it comes to risk assessment this season.

You can see it in his football, in the way Joe Rodon routinely implores his team-mates to calm things down in possession and start again from the back so they can retake their shape and do things properly, by the manager's book. We've seen it in team selection, too, when Farke has drip-fed injured players back into action over a number of games when, in all probability, the player in question would stick his hand in the air for a start there and then.

One such player, earlier this season, was Patrick Bamford. Farke suspected that his striker felt he was ready long before he finally got his run in the team. But the manager waited and waited. It was 20 minutes off the bench here, another 20 there, 10 at Sunderland, just the one at Preston. It wasn't until December 29 that Bamford got as much as half an hour on the pitch in a Championship fixture. Then a new year began with Bamford in the starting line-up, fit, healthy and scoring goals. Plenty of others have had to bide their time too when coming back from knocks and niggles, not just because they lost their spot to someone else but because Farke, all season, has insisted Leeds will not do anything silly.

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But we're at that point in the season now when you can still safeguard your player's health and wellbeing but push the boat out just a little more in the knowledge that there isn't two or three months' worth of football to be played. Risking a not-quite-fully-fit player for a big game in January is very different to the scenario facing Farke right now. Perhaps that's why Farke let his and Willy Gnonto's hearts rule the heads of sports science in the game against Blackburn Rovers, leaving his dangerman on the pitch for 80 minutes rather than the 60 that had been suggested by the medical team before kick-off. Even when Gnonto did come off, he did not do so happily, allowing his frustration to show in his body language on the touchline in front of the West Stand.

Any player worth their salt will want to start and stay on when the season gets to this stage and there is still something so worthy to play for. That's why it would come as a huge shock if we did not see Bamford on Friday night, for at least some of the Queens Park Rangers game. The striker has a bruised knee and was rated as a 'major doubt' for the penultimate league outing, when Farke sat down with some members of the local media at lunchtime on Thursday. He did not finish Monday's 4-3 win at Middlesbrough, but his 75-minute appearance was sufficient to suggest he would be Farke's man in the number 9 position for the remaining two games. He scored, he got himself in position to have chances and he linked the play reasonably well.

"Obviously he's important for us in terms of his goals because he has this natural instinct where to be," said Farke. "You need to have this natural striker’s instinct and this is what Patrick has. He’s also crucial in our pressing, in our workload also, when he's concentrated on holding the ball, on linking the play. I think he's important and especially because he's experienced. He can calm the [younger] lads down. Sometimes he also can fire them up. You need experience in this role."

Farke has had doubts over player availability on other occasions this season and still has been able to count upon their services. Asked if Bamford would be available should the game come on Saturday rather than Friday night and he answered in the affirmative, so we know this knee bruise is not in the same category as Daniel James' core injury or the muscle issue that ruled Connor Roberts out before the trip to Boro. It would not be entirely fair to suggest there is some kidology at play, there will definitely be a bruise and if Farke says so then there will be some doubt, but it would do no harm to keep QPR guessing just a little as to who exactly their centre-backs might be facing. It's just very difficult to imagine, ahead of game of this magnitude, that a player who has shared a dressing room with players like Liam Cooper, Luke Ayling, Stuart Dallas and Rodrigo, who all played through the pain barrier to be there in big games, and has almost certainly done the same himself previously, would not be bending his manager's ear with protestations of health and vitality. Look boss, I can sprint. Did you see how I bounded up the stairs to lunch? I just did 10 squats with both Summerville and Gnonto on my shoulders. Etcetera, etcetera. It's equally difficult to imagine Farke not going with his current first-choice centre forward for what is now the biggest game of the season.

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"I trust all my players and whoever will be on the pitch, he will have our full trust and our full backing," said the German. "That's definitely for sure. Obviously it would be a big miss if Patrick [Bamford] actually misses this game, but we can't do anything with the fixture list. It is like this, and we have to adapt to the situation. We have to adapt to reality and it could be that he's not available for the game or perhaps not even to start the game, whatever. We'll see what happens in the next 24 hours. And then we find some other solutions and we give all the backing and trust to our players."

The possible solutions in the event that Bamford does actually sit out, are few and far between. The return of Joel Piroe to the role, against Blackburn, did not yield the desired effect and there is a far greater appetite in the fanbase to see Mateo Joseph get the chance. Many were surprised when it was the Dutchman and not the young Spaniard, when Bamford was dropped for the Rovers game. If Joseph's emotional response to a squabble with Bamford in the warm-up was anything to go by, the 20-year-old was surprised and hugely disappointed, too. Given the promising recent cameos and that fantastic display at Chelsea, he will feel he is ready if Bamford is not.

But don't be surprised if, when the team sheet drops at 7pm on Friday night, the man with the number 9 shirt has been etched into the starting XI to play the number 9 role. Bruises are temporary, glory is permanent.

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