MIDFIELD teen star Ronaldo Vieira is set to give Leeds United a timely boost by returning to the firing line for the club’s pivotal last three games.
Nine points out of nine will definitely see the Whites finish in the Championship play-offs, with head coach Garry Monk declaring: “We are going to fight with everything we have for these next three games.” Vieira excelled in the 3-0 win at home to Preston North End the previous weekend and was set to keep his place for Good Friday’s trip to Newcastle United before falling ill.
The 18-year-old instead dropped to the substitute’s bench as captain Liam Bridcutt returned to partner Kalvin Phillips in central midfield and Vieira was then missing altogether for Easter Monday’s home clash with Wolves.
An Easter return of just one point following a 1-1 draw at Newcastle and 1-0 loss at home to Wolves has dropped Leeds from fifth to seventh and out of the division’s top six for the first time since November.
United now trail sixth-placed Fulham on goal difference with a further two-point gap to fifth-placed Sheffield Wednesday.
Yet with Wednesday entertaining Fulham on the final day of the season, United’s destiny is still in their own hands with three wins from the club’s last three games guaranteed to seal Leeds a top-six finish.
This coming Saturday’s trip to sixth-bottom Burton Albion will be followed by a home clash against eighth-placed Norwich City the following Saturday before a final-day visit to second-bottom Wigan Athletic on Sunday, May 7.
Monk is optimistic that Vieira will be making a timely return, with the head coach also adamant that United remain in a positive position with three games to go.
“He was ill beforehand at Newcastle and then got a little bit more (sick) afterwards,” said Monk of Vieira.
“The illness has kept him out and we are hoping he will be back ready and in contention for selection for the squad for the weekend.”
United’s play-off position looked more or less guaranteed when Leeds held an eight-point buffer back to seventh-placed Fulham.
Leeds were as short as 1-16 to finish in the top six but the Whites can now be backed at 8-11, a bigger price than the Cottagers (4-6) and the Owls (1-5).
Monk declared: “With the situation that we are in, I think everyone at the club never expected us to be doing what we are doing.
“I am sure our fans will be disappointed that we didn’t get the win that we wanted on Monday that we hoped to get.
“But our situation is this and we have no time to feel sorry for ourselves, simple as that.
“This group have been fantastic this season and they have got three games to show their maximum and what they are capable of and the preparation started from the moment that they walked out of that changing room afterwards.
“We will have a determined week’s training and we will be ready for this game on Saturday.
“We are still in a fantastic position from where we were at the start of the season and we are going to fight with everything we have for these next three games.”