Leeds United head coach Garry Monk is weighing up a recall for captain Liam Bridcutt tonight with selection problems biting ahead of the club’s clash with Reading.
Monk is giving serious thought to fielding Bridcutt for the first time since September after injury and suspension robbed him of the services of Eunan O’Kane and Kalvin Phillips.
O’Kane’s niggling groin complaint had ruled him out of a third successive game and Phillips is set to serve a one-match ban after his red card at Brighton on Friday, depriving Monk of what was an established partnership in the centre of midfield.
Bridcutt has only just resumed full training, three months after fracturing a foot bone, and Monk chose not to risk the 27-year-old during Leeds’ 2-0 defeat to Brighton.
The United boss looked likely to put Bridcutt through an Under-23 outing before immersing him in the club’s Championship season again but a sudden shortage in midfield could see him partner 18-year-old Ronaldo Vieira against Jaap Stam’s Royals.
Bridcutt was put through another training session this evening while Monk delayed a final decision on his line-up, and Monk said: “He’s fit but whether he’s ready to play a game or not we’ll decide after training. There’s always a chance.
“He’s come back in good condition and it’s just about whether he’s in the right condition to start a game. You’ve got a responsibility to make sure you don’t force players back and then lose them going forward for (the sake of) one game. But Liam’s come back in really good condition, probably ahead of where we thought.”
Leeds have also been without Pablo Hernandez for the past month and Monk revealed that the former Valencia player is still around 10 days away from recovering fully from a hamstring strain.
“With Kalvin suspended, Eunan out and Pablo out it leaves us with less options,” Monk said. “But that’s for us to deal with and for us to make sure that whoever goes out knows what they’re doing, which they will.”
The spate of absences has not impinged on United’s league form and the club are sixth in the table ahead of tomorrow night’s meeting with third-placed Reading.
The Berkshire club are thriving under Stam – the ex-Manchester United defender who replaced former Leeds United boss Brian McDermott as manager at the Madejski Stadium in the summer – and Monk said Reading were no longer flying under radar having started the season as outsiders for promotion.
“They’re an excellent side,” Monk said. “Jaap Stam’s gone there and done a wonderful job with them. They’re performing to a high level so again it’s going to be a difficult test but we talked about making Elland Road a fearsome place to come to and that’s been growing. We want to go out and put the Brighton result right.
“We felt we didn’t do ourselves justice down there. We made too many mistakes individually. Everyone was frustrated, there was disappointment, but that’s a good sign. We’ve set a high standard.”