AHEAD of what will be Leeds United’s first competitive game at Elland Road of the new campaign, Lee Sobot looks at a few points to ponder in anticipation of the first round Carabao Cup clash with Port Vale.
Cameron Borthwick-Jackson debut?
Leeds were in need of a new left back option even before Gaetano Berardi dislocated his shoulder in Sunday’s Championship opener at Bolton.
But the impending arrival of 20-year-old Cameron Borthwick-Jackson on a season-long loan from Manchester United had been well documented and the defender officially joined Leeds the following day.
There is nothing to suggest that Borthwick-Jackson will not be eligible to face Port Vale.
So there must be every chance of the young defender making a full debut, especially now that fellow young left back Tyler Denton has himself joined Vale on a season-long loan. Denton, though, is ineligible to face Leeds.
With Berardi injured, Leeds head coach Thomas Christiansen’s only other option at left back is right-footed Vurnon Anita who replaced Berardi at Bolton and deeply impressed playing out of position. But Anita may well shift back to his more familiar role of right back if Luke Ayling is rested or Anita may even play in midfield which is after all his most recognised position.
All in all, the chances of Borthwick-Jackson making a full Leeds debut are high.
How will United’s patched-up defence look?
United’s lack of options in defence is no secret and Sunday’s injuries to Matthew Pennington (ankle) and Gaetano Berardi (dislocated shoulder) were needed like a hole in the head.
Leeds are still waiting to hear how long the duo will be sidelined for.
With Pontus Jansson serving the final game of a three-match suspension, United only have three available centre-backs for the Vale clash and only one of them - Sunday’s Whites captain Liam Cooper - is a natural.
Right back Ayling and midfielder Conor Shaughnessy are the others and it was Shaughnessy that filled the void left by Pennington at Bolton.
That suggests that Cooper will partner Shaughnessy against Vale and leaves three full backs competing for the positions at right back and left back out of Ayling, Anita and Borthwick-Jackson.
At least we know who will be captain.
Anita at right back, Borthwick-Jackson at left back and Ayling rested might be the call. Christiansen must also choose between current Felix Wiedwald, Rob Green or Bailey Peacock-Farrell in goal and with Wiedwald starting against Bolton that looks a toss up between Green or Peacock-Farrell.
Green seems likely to be given the call.
Widescale changes in midfield and upfront?
Generally, the scale of the options available to United’s new head coach was clearly illustrated in United’s final pre-season friendly against Oxford United when Christiansen named 16 substitutes.
Plenty of them were midfielders and there must be every chance of United’s head coach changing the entire ‘front six’ in front of United’s goalkeeper and back four.
Christiansen will surely be keen to rest his star men with United hosting Preston in the league just three days later.
Eunan O’Kane and Kalvin Phillips played the full 90 minutes in the two central midfield roles against Bolton but Mateusz Klich, Ronaldo Vieira and Liam Bridcutt are other options and two of that trio may well start.
Kemar Roofe and Gianni Alioski were given the nod out wide against Bolton but there must be every chance that Stuart Dallas and Hadi Sacko will be given a go.
Likewise, Pablo Hernandez fulfilled the no 10 role against Bolton but Samuel Saiz, like Klich, will be itching to make his first competitive start for Leeds. And the same is true of new striker Caleb Ekuban who is the obvious alternative to Chris Wood for the lone striker role though Solueymane Doukara may well pop up on the match day 18 too.
The game would also seem perfect for Marcus Antonsson to be handed a run out but the Swede is now being linked with a loan move to Blackburn Rovers.
But widescale changes look inevitable and it may well be that four players - Borthwick-Jackson, Klich, Saiz and Ekuban all make Leeds debuts.
It may even be that Chrstiansen gives some of the under-23s players a go such as Madger Gomes though United’s head coach looks to have enough options as it is.
Gomes, though, may well be on the bench.
The second round draw
United will first and foremost need to see off Vale and the Stoke-on-Trent side will arrive in good spirits after a 3-1 victory at Harry Kewell’s Crawley Town side on the opening day of the League Two season.
But Michael Brown’s visitors are as big as 7-1 to win in 90 minutes or 7-2 just to qualify (Leeds are as short as 1-6 just to go through).
The Whites ought to be looking at a straight-forward progression.
All eyes would then be on the second round draw which will take place on Thursday, live on Sky Sports News following the televised Bury versus Sunderland tie.
The 13 Premier League clubs not competing in UEFA competitions will enter the competition, along with Hull City and Middlesbrough.
The EFL have yet to announce if the draw will be seeded or regionalised.
Leicester City or West Ham are two of the biggest names entering the competition in the next round but in the event that West Ham are drawn to play at home, the fixture will instead take place at the opposition’s venue, due to a previously agreed arrangement that the London Stadium was to stage the 2017 IAAF World Championships in August.
The second round games will take place on either Tuesday, August 22, Wednesday, August 23 or Thursday, August 24 - in between United’s league trips to Sunderland and Nottingham Forest.
A strong chance of three big away days in the space of a week.