Leeds United signed off for the November international break having won six of their last seven games, yet there are still likely to be big changes to boss Daniel Farke’s matchday squad after the restart.
Farke had five players out injured for Saturday’s final game before the international break at home to newly-promoted Plymouth Argyle. But five then became six as Sam Byram was forced off midway through the second half of a game in which Leeds recorded a 2-1 victory to move within eight points off top spot.
Farke has only made minimal changes of late, not surprising given his side’s recent run, but there are reasons to believe that his best XI and bench could change quite a bit if and when everyone is fully fit. Here, we run through our idea of the best starting line up and nine substitutes that Farke could name if and when all of his options are ready for action.
1. GK: Illan Meslier
One of just two Leeds players to have played every minute of every league game so far and clear first choice keeper who already has six clean sheets. No debate there. Photo: George Wood
2. RB: Djed Spence
A big shout sticking someone in who has played just nine minutes of football since joining the club on a season-long loan from Tottenham Hotspur but there can no doubting that Spence is a class act - especially at this level - who would surely be first choice right back when he finally returns from his knee injury. Harsh on Archie Gray who has been brilliant in the position, especially for a midfielder. Photo: Jonathan Gawthorpe
3. CB: Joe Rodon
The Wales international defender has been a rock at the back since signing from Tottenham on a season-long loan. Photo: George Wood
4. CB: Pascal Struijk
Another who has really excelled at the back, even becoming captain when Liam Cooper and Luke Ayling are not on the pitch. Put simply, the brilliant displays of Rodon and Struijk have been keeping Cooper and also fellow centre-back option Charlie Cresswell out. Struijk had been ever present until being sent for hernia surgery but there can be no doubt that he makes the strongest XI on his recent form when he returns although the challenge to Cooper is to now excel to such a degree himself that he keeps Struijk out. Photo: George Wood
5. LB: Sam Byram
The left back position has been a long-standing issue for Leeds but Byram's displays upon re-joining the club this summer have gone some way to solving that although the ex-Whites youngster suffered a hamstring strain in the last game before the international break against Plymouth. Whites boss Farke expected that Byram would miss the return to action which would likely provide an opportunity for the fit-again chief alternative Junior Firpo to stake his claim although Jamie Shackleton is another option, as is young defender Leo Hjelde. Byram first choice though, as things stand. Photo: George Wood
6. CM: Ethan Ampadu
Wales international midfielder Ampadu has proved a brilliant piece of business in costing just £7m from Chelsea at just 23 years old. Struijk's injury has left Ampadu as the only outfield Leeds player to have played every minute of every league game so far and he's probably just about the first name on the team sheet. Just a case of who partners him which is the million-dollar question when everyone is fit. Photo: George Wood