Leeds United's EFL Trophy campaign will come to a head in must-win Blackpool showdown
Leeds United’s academy youngsters travel to face Blackpool this evening in EFL Trophy action knowing nothing but victory will do.
Mark Jackson’s outfit make the trip to Bloomfield Road in Group H and take on the League-One Seasiders in a must-win affair. United sit bottom of the group ahead of kick-off but can still secure passage into the knockout stages alongside group winners Accrington Stanley with three points.
Leeds are expected to name a strong academy line-up for their Under-21s side with Joe Gelhardt and Sam Greenwood available. Defensive trio Charlie Cresswell, Nohan Kenneh and Cody Drameh will miss the fixture having been selected for youth international duty by England.
Blackpool will head into the clash as heavy favourites and must avoid defeat to earn qualification as runners up.
Neil Critchley’s outfit are no strangers to the tag, having disposed of National League South Eastbourne Borough in a professional FA Cup first-round 3-0 victory last weekend.
Leeds, meanwhile, fell to a late 4-3 defeat at Newcastle United in a Premier League 2 encounter last Friday.
“They’ve got some really good young players,” Critchley said ahead of the showdown with the Whites.
“They’ve recruited quite a lot in the last couple of years and they’ve just moved into Category One status.”
He added: “Their academy has always had a history of producing players, but they’re obviously trying to get back to where they once were in terms of academy status and they have some good, young talented players.
“They try and play in a similar way to the first team, so it will be a difficult game.
“We’re not quite sure what team they’ll pick because it’s the international window, so will some of the first-team players drop down and play? Possibly. It’s hard to prepare for what actual team will play, but we know the style of the team we’re going to face.
“They press, they’re quite man-to-man orientated in terms of their defence and they play fast, aggressive, attacking football.
“They’ve got players that can play, technical players that can handle the ball and they can make it extremely difficult for you.
“With my background working with younger players, I know if you allow them to play and get into a rhythm then they can cause you problems.”
Blackpool are expected to name a competitive line-up for the encounter with midfielder Ethan Robson returning from suspension. Dan Ballard will miss out as the defender is now away on international duty with Northern Ireland.
Oliver Sarkic could return from injury to face his former side alongside Keshi Anderson, but another ex-Whites academy product in Luke Garbutt will be missing as will MJ Williams, Matty Virtue and cup-tied Ben Woodburn.