YEP Jury: Leeds United’s injury setbacks add to pressure to pick up three points against Derby County

Pablo Hernandez is a likely absentee for Leeds United when they take on Derby County.
Pablo Hernandez is a likely absentee for Leeds United when they take on Derby County.
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Our fans’ panel have their say on Leeds United’s crucial Championship home match with ‘Frank Lampard’s Derby’.

DAVID WATKINS

Liam Cooper is in contention to return to the Leeds United line-up to face Derby County.

Liam Cooper is in contention to return to the Leeds United line-up to face Derby County.

Where do we start? Had I penned this before Wednesday then I might have been writing something entirely different.

But I waited to hear Marcelo Bielsa’s press conference and that’s when he suggested we may have to face Derby without the mercurial talent of Pablo Hernandez. Leeds have stumbled even with the Spanish magician, losing back-to-back league games for the first time this season over the holiday, but to face ‘Frank Lampard’s Derby’, as they are now known, without him looks a tall order.

This will be tough with or without Pablo but, if he’s missing, I’m afraid I can’t see past a Derby victory, though I’m hope I’m wrong. Derby sit handily placed in sixth, albeit eight points adrift of Leeds at the top, and have a decent record away from home having won six; a total only bettered by Leeds and Sheffield United.

They have also had a tough run of games through Christmas, playing Forest, Bristol, Sheffield United, Norwich and Middlesbrough, and losing only on the trip to Bramall Lane.

Derby County's Jack Marriott.

Derby County's Jack Marriott.

Prediction: Leeds United 0 Derby County 1.

ANDY RHODES

Right then, back to it, and what a game it could be following the FA Cup third round.

Leeds welcome ‘Frank Lampard’s Derby’ in what promises to be a mouth-watering clash at Elland Road as the pressure to pick up three points grows.

The Rams are a completely different outfit to the one that lost 4-1 to Leeds at Pride Park in August. That day, United ran riot as the Championship became acquainted with Marcelo Bielsa. Now, though, both sides have changed; as Derby’s players have found their feet, Leeds’ have found the injury table.

Nevertheless, the Whites have largely coped with their mounting injury woes and, despite Barry Douglas missing, the return of Liam Cooper is a welcome boost. It’s highly likely the game will be decided on two things – Leeds’ ability to deal with the likes of Jack Marriott, Harry Wilson and Tom Lawrence, and the ability to create chances and put them away.

On paper it looks like and even contest, but this is the Championship; anything could happen.

Prediction: Leeds United 1 Derby County 1.

KEITH INGHAM

Well, dear readers, the biggest home game so far is upon us.

The clash with Derby County tonight has massive implications owing to three disappointing results. Admittedly, one was last week’s FA Cup defeat when the team was filled with youngsters but it still was a loss. Winning, they say, is a good habit to have and the games prior to Liam Cooper’s injury were superb. Seven straight wins put Leeds in a very good position going into the Hull City game; since the skipper has been out, 13 goals have been conceded.

I’m not blaming the players who have come in but the trend needs stopping; you cannot hope to continue to out-score opponents, a thing we did before the Hull game but have struggled to do since. Three defeats isn’t the end of the world, but losing also is a habit that needs ending.

Leeds will hopefully have captain Liam Cooper back, while Gaetano Berardi and Stuart Dallas are back training but Derby might be too soon to see their return. And who knows if we will see Izzy Brown actually make an first-team appearance in the near future. Patrick Bamford is also a few weeks away from being considered. Kalvin Phillips will also be absent due to suspension.

If Cooper is back he will join Pontus Jansson in the middle of the defence. I’d like to see Leeds play with a back three – Luke Ayling being the other one with Jamie Shackleton and Gjanni Alioski as wide full-backs. Earlier in the season, I saw a rampant Leeds tear Derby to pieces in a superb 4-1 win there. It is still one of the best performances of the season and, although I don’t expect a similar scoreline, I expect a win.

The team has worked hard to get where it is and they have now 20 cup finals to make sure the ultimate aim of the season is achieved. Some help from additional players brought in might help Mr Owner too!

Prediction: Leeds United 2 Derby County 1.

MIKE GILL

The corresponding fixture back in August was the second example of Bielsa Ball – and we loved it.

Thankfully, United’s form has endured and Derby sit eight points behind the Whites.

Derby are a talented young side with players like Mason Mount, Jack Marriott and Harry Wilson. It is certain that, without the element of surprise, they will be a tougher nut to crack this time.

The Whites will go into this fixture without player-of-the-season contender Kalvin Phillips but should be able to call upon Liam Cooper.

Any other selection issues will undoubtedly be revealed. Let us hope that there are no more shocks.

Little could be gleaned from the QPR game. Bailey Peacock-Farrell was magnificent and Tyler Roberts put in a very useful performance. The fact that the club were not really serious about this game was revealed more by the make up of the bench than the starting XI.

A draw against Derby would maintain the eight-point gap but I am going for a win.

Prediction: Leeds United 2 Derby County 1.

SHAUN SMITH

As Frank Lampard brings Frank Lampard’s Derby to Elland Road, many Leeds fans’ thoughts will be on not who is in the United side but who isn’t.

It is January and squeaky bottom time as we realise that Marcelo Bielsa’s wafer-thin squad is lean in every sense of the word. We may or may not have the full complement of centre-backs.

We may have a five-foot-three sixteen-year-old in the role.

And we may or may not recruit.

For months we wondered why they call Bielsa El Loco.

And, as we sit nervously at the top of the table teased by expectation and anticipation, we watch Frank Lampard’s Derby arrive, a club who seem to recruit a player for every goal they concede. It seems perverse that it appears that, for so long impoverished, the top brass at Leeds wish to bring players in but the coach seems happy to plough on with a skeletal squad.

It is madness but there is method in it.

How does one acquire cover for Pablo Hernandez? How does one replace the irreplaceable Kalvin Phillips?

The youngsters come in and fit in. Some older models have failed to fit in at all. Players he trusts will return and he will want them to play.

Bielsa does not throw money at a problem. One suspects Frank Lampard’s Derby will.

This match will be tight. The whole season will be tight. My stomach is tight. My nerves are at snapping point.

Leeds need to score early and score twice. I expect to be hoarse on Saturday morning. I expect to be a nervous wreck come May. It’s football. It’s madness.

Prediction: Leeds United 2 Derby County 1.

MATTHEW EVANS

Our home game with Derby in 2016/2017, just after Christmas, on a Friday night in January, was the high point of our season with Garry Monk.

A 1-0 win didn’t begin to underline the dominance of the display that night. Unfortunately, it was mostly downhill from there as we plunged out of the play-off places just in time to miss out when May rolled around.

The fanbase is now enveloped with the fear of the same thing happening three seasons in a row. A promising position blown to pieces in the second half of the season. We’ve lost three games on the bounce and it doesn’t help that our injury worries show no sign of letting up. Losing one of the main architects of that win in 2017, Pablo Hernandez, is really bad news.

There are reasons to believe that this year will be different. Our style of play remains undiminished, our confidence and work-rate appear high and Marcelo Bielsa seems to have more psychological mettle than 50 Garry Monks combined. We’ve got this.

Prediction: Leeds United 2 Derby County 1.