FORMER midfielder David Prutton feels Leeds United would be capable of brushing aside the likely heartache of missing an automatic promotion place by winning a ticket to the Premier League faced with the clean slate of the play-offs.
United’s bid for an automatic promotion place is hanging by a thread following defeats to Wigan Athletic and Brentford over the Easter weekend which has left Leeds third and three points behind second-placed Sheffield United with just two games to go.
The Blades also have a vastly superior goals difference meaning that Chris Wilder’s men would effectively seal an automatic promotion place if they defeat already-relegated Ipswich Town at Bramall Lane on Saturday tea-time.
With Leeds also six points behind leaders Norwich City, who also have a considerably better goals difference, the Whites are now huge long shots to finish in the top two despite having needed just 10 points from a last possible 12 to seal promotion.
Sunday’s Elland Road clash against a fifth-placed Aston Villa side that have won 10 in a row could now be a dress rehearsal for a meeting in the play-offs in which former Whites midfielder and Sky Sports pundit Prutton would still be optimistic about United’s chance.
Leeds’ players were left visibly distressed by Bank Holiday Monday’s loss at Brentford with midfielder Pablo Hernandez in tears.
The Whites are now facing the prospect of an intense play-offs battle having looked destined for automatic promotion, but Prutton said: “Of course there is a chance of them winning the play-offs, absolutely.
“You can look at Aston Villa winning 10 in a row but before that and before Jack Grealish came back and pulled his finger out they were 13th in the table and things can change pretty rapidly.
“The other side of it is that if you go into the play-offs then the slate is wiped clean.
“Leeds and Villa will meet on Sunday and they can maybe get a good eye of what they are about and then maybe come up against them in the play-offs.
“It might be a good challenge to see what the possibility could be and who they are facing if that comes around.
“There are obviously questions about momentum and Leeds will need to be strong mentally and emotionally and physically as well.
“You can’t take that away because Leeds will be getting asked the most demanding of questions after the most demanding of seasons.
“No Gjanni Alioski and no Barry Douglas who are both injured, but this is what players who have played over the course of the season will have to deal with and, if anything is typically Leeds United, it’s doing it the hard way.”