as Leeds United prepare to resume Championship action after the international break, the YEP’s Lee Sobot looks at the main issues facing Whites head coach Garry Monk.
Assess the club’s internationals
Leeds have had six players on international duty during the current two-week break - Chris Wood, Pontus Jansson, Stuart Dallas, Eunan O’Kane, Liam Cooper and Mo Barrow. And Wood, Jansson and O’Kane could all be in action on Tuesday. New Zealand captain Wood will certainly feature for the Kiwis who take on Fiji in their Oceania World Cup Qualifier in Wellington for a 07.35pm kick-off - UK time. Wood played the full 90 minutes of Saturday’s reverse fixture in which he was on the scoresheet with a second-half penalty in a 2-0 victory. Jansson also played the full 90 minutes for Sweden in their 4-0 defeat of Belarus on Saturday in their World Cup Qualifier. The centre-back could now feature in Tuesday night’s friendly in Portugal (7.45pm). O’Kane could also feature for the Republic Of Ireland in their friendly international at home to Iceland on Tuesday night (7.45pm) though the midfielder played no part in Friday night’s World Cup Qualifier draw at home to Wales.
Dallas’ international involvement is done with the winger having played 88 minutes of Sunday evening’s 2-0 win at home to Norway in a World Cup Qualifier. Cooper is also done having not featured for Scotland in either of their two games. But Barrow could be in action for Gambia on Monday when they take on the Central African Republic in a friendly at the Stade Municipal, Kenitra (4pm).
Wood and Jansson - who could both return to Thorp Arch having played 180 minutes of football - not to mention the travelling - will likely be Monk’s main concern.
Form a plan to beat Reading - and make a call on Cooper or Jansson
The challenge in hand of taking on fifth-placed Reading will have been on Monk’s mind ever since the defeat of Brighton a week last Saturday but preparations will go up a gear this week at Thorp Arch. United dealt with Reading brilliantly in the 2-0 defeat of Jaap Stam’s side in December in which Reading enjoyed a huge share of possession but did little with it. But the Royals are unbeaten in six games at the Madejski - winning four - and entered the international break buoyed by a 2-0 win at Sheffield Wednesday. Stam’s men will be out for revenge and French forward Yann Kermorgant in particular could be a key threat. Monk will have an important call to make on whether to stick with Kyle Bartley and Liam Cooper at centre-back or whether to restore Jansson next to Bartley after surprisingly dropping the Swede for the win against Brighton. The head coach will also have a decision to make on who to start in centre midfield and out wide. With Luke Ayling still suspended, the rest of the team pretty much picks itself - assuming Monk keeps faith with Pablo Hernandnez at no 10, with Kemar Roofe the obvious alternative. Monk opted to start Ronaldo Vieira alongside captain Liam Bridcutt against Brighton and there would be no obvious reason to change that, despite Kalvin Phillips being back available from suspension. O’Kane is the other option. Hadi Sacko and Alfonso Pedraza were given the nods out wide against Brighton but it remains close call with Dallas, Souleymane Doukara, Roofe and Barrow providing other options. But Monk will likely be reluctant to change a winning side and Jansson v Cooper is clearly the biggest call.
Check the progress of Lewie Coyle and Tyler Denton
Full backs Denton and Cole were United’s only two injuries heading into the international break with Coyle recovering from a foot injury and Denton having had an operation on his knee. Neither would be first team starters at present and it’s questionable if either of the duo would even make the bench at full strength but the more options the better for Monk. The head coach hoped that Coyle would return to training after the international break with Denton a “couple of weeks after that.”