Leeds United's Championship play-off rivals get major injury boost as familiar face aims for semi-final return

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Leeds United could face West Brom in the playoff semi-finals.

West Bromwich Albion will hope to have striker Josh Maja fully fit and available in time for the play-offs where they could face Leeds United in the semi-finals.

Maja, who joined the Baggies on a free transfer from Bordeaux last summer, has endured a season of unfortunate injury issues, with a pair of serious ankle injuries keeping him out for much of the campaign. The 25-year-old has been eased back since returning three weeks ago, with two first-team appearances totalling just 17 minutes.

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But Maja has been finding fitness at under-21 level and the West Brom frontman was central to Monday night’s 4-2 win over Leeds under-21s. The former Sunderland man got 79 minutes under his belt and looked sharp, bagging two well-taken goals after setting up Fenton Heard for the opener.

West Brom manager Carlos Corberan, who spent three years in charge of what was then United’s under-23s side before moving into first-team management with Huddersfield Town in 2020, was watching on at the Hawthorns. The Spaniard seemingly had an eye on Maja and so long as there are no issues, the forward looks set to be more heavily involved ahead of the playoffs.

The Nigerian international has only made one start for Albion’s first-team this season but 192 minutes of football has yielded one goal. A fully-fit Maja will provide a major boost for the Baggies, however, going into this crucial month.

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A poor run of form - they have lost their last three and won one in seven - has seen the Baggies fall from the fifth spot they had held for several months and a place in the play-offs is no longer guaranteed. Corberan's side will expect to win at home to Preston North End on Saturday though, and only realistically need a point to ensure a top-six finish, due to their superior goal difference over seventh-placed Hull City.

Should Albion end the regular season in sixth then they will likely come up against Leeds in the playoff semi-finals, with Daniel Farke’s men looking set to miss out on automatic promotion. A top-two finish is not impossible but United must beat Southampton and hope the virtually relegated Huddersfield Town can do them a massive favour and win at Ipswich Town.

West Brom are one of few teams yet to taste defeat against Leeds, having battled to earn a 1-1 draw at Elland Road in August, a period in which the Whites were yet to find their feet amid ongoing transfer uncertainty. Corberan’s side did win 1-0 at home at the end of December, the second of a two-game losing run that preceded United’s outstanding 15-game unbeaten streak in 2024.

Depending on results elsewhere, Leeds could also face one of Norwich City or Hull City in the play-off semi-finals - should Ipswich secure second-place, of course - who are currently fifth and seventh respectively. Southampton, who come to Elland Road on the final day, will face the fifth-placed finishers in the semi-final, with the winners of each two-legged tie meeting at Wembley on Sunday, May 26 for a place in the Premier League.