Sunderland v Leeds United: Whites light on experience for FA Cup trip

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Leeds United are likely to be without injured defenders Stephen Warnock and Jason Pearce for their FA Cup trip to Sunderland.

The experienced pair look set to miss Sunday’s third-round tie at the Stadium of Light with problems sustained before and during Tuesday night’s defeat to Derby County.

Pearce missed United’s visit to Pride Park with a niggling knee injury and Warnock – Leeds’ current club captain – lasted for just two minutes before a challenge on County’s Cyrus Christie saw him limp from the field.

Damage to Warnock’s ankle will almost certainly rule him out of the Sunderland clash and United head coach Neil Redfearn hinted that Pearce might be rested again after carrying his injury through previous matches.

“Jason’s got a problem with his knee,” Redfearn said. “He’s played a couple of games with it bothering him so it was important that we looked after him and rested him.”

Warnock’s absence at left-back would open the door for Gaetano Berardi to make his first competitive start since the beginning of November, though Redfearn also has the option of turning to youngster Charlie Taylor.

Leeds tied Taylor to a new three-year contract in the summer, extending his deal on the back of a successful loan at Fleetwood Town, but he has made only one league appearances this season as a substitute in a 1-0 win over Bolton in August.

Pearce’s fitness, meanwhile, has increased the likelihood of United moving to sign another centre-back once the January transfer window officially opens on Saturday.

Leeds have set the arrival of a new striker and a new central midfielder as priorities this month and are pushing to finalise half-season loans for Sassuolo’s Leonardo Pavoletti and Inter Milan’s Rene Krhin.

But the club are also looking to bring another central defender to Elland Road with the threat of a long-term suspension hanging over Italian Giuseppe Bellusci.

Bellusci has been charged by the Football Association with racially abusing Norwich City’s Cameron Jerome during a Championship game at Carrow Road on October 21.

The 25-year-old, who faces a minimum five-game ban if found guilty, intends to deny the offence and has until January 2 to formally respond to his FA charge.

Sky Bet Championship.'Reading FC v Leeds United'United's head coach Paul Heckingbottom.'9th March 2018.'Picture Jonathan Gawthorpe

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