Leeds United will cross their fingers for an injury-free international break with at least three key players set to fly out for World Cup qualifiers next week.
Striker Chris Wood, midfielder Eunan O’Kane and winger Stuart Dallas will link up with New Zealand, the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland respectively after Saturday’s home league clash with Brighton.
Wood – United’s leading striker with 25 goals – is set to feature for New Zealand in back-to-back clashes with Fiji on March 25 and 28 and O’Kane has been named in the Republic’s squad for matches against Wales and Iceland.
The Irish are due to meet Wales in a World Cup qualifier in Dublin on March 24 before staging a friendly against Iceland four days later.
Dallas will look to win his 20th international cap when Northern Ireland play Norway on March 26.
O’Kane has been a regular part of Martin O’Neill’s plans but a persistent groin injury suffered by him during time away with the Republic before Christmas forced him to miss two months of Leeds’ Championship campaign.
The 26-year-old returned to contention towards the end of January but has started only six games since limping out of Leeds’ League Cup tie at Liverpool on November 29. Head coach Garry Monk left him out of his 18-man squad at Fulham for tactical reasons.
Speaking about his fitness recently, O’Kane said: “The frustrating thing from my point of view was that when the first happened we weren’t entirely clear on what it was. It took a bit of time to diagnose the specific problem. By the time we did I was nearly fit again and I’d been eight weeks out.”
Dallas also suffered an injury while away with Northern Ireland in October, missing six weeks with a calf strain.
United captain Liam Bridcutt, who was capped by Scotland towards the end of last season, has missed out on a place in Gordon Strachan’s squad for games against Canada and Slovenia.