Middlesbrough v Leeds United: Influential pair may not be risked with fixture congestion on horizon
Pablo Hernandez and Kemar Roofe could be left out of Leeds United's squad again tomorrow night with head coach Paul Heckingbottom reluctant to risk losing them for the Championship run-in.
Heckingbottom said both players were “touch and go” with muscle strains suffered last week and admitted he was likely to err on the side of caution with 12 more games to go.
The United boss is wary of fixture congestion during the final two months of the campaign and might omit Hernandez and Roofe tomorrow to limit the threat of either player aggravating their injuries.
The pair missed Saturday’s 1-0 win over Brentford having been substituted during a 2-2 draw at Derby County three days earlier. Heckingbottom said: “They’ll be touch and go but we’ve got no reason to risk them. Between now and the end of the season, barring the international week, we’ve got really congested fixtures so we need everyone 100 per cent.
“If there is any doubt we won’t risk them or put them in. If they’re available then we’ll use them.”
Leeds are without Luke Ayling for the rest of the season season after the right-back underwent ankle surgery in January and a shin problem is likely to sideline new signing Tyler Roberts until the summer. Roberts has not played since a £2.5m move from West Bromwich Albion in January and will be sent for surgery unless an extended spell of treatment nurses him back to full fitness.
Heckingbottom said: “If he needs an intervention then we’ll know within three or fours weeks. He’ll be at a level where we can get him kicking on but if he’s still getting discomfort or pain, we’ll have to do something about it.”
Former Middlesbrough midfielder Adam Forshaw, however, is in contention to start against his former club having missed the Brentford clash to be present at the birth of his son.
Heckingbottom admitted that squad rotation would come into play in the final stages of the campaign.
“If players are performing well and there’s no need physically or mentally to move them about then you don’t,” he said, “but with the demands of this league, those opportunities are few and far between.
“Players are going to be pushed and we’ll come to a spell where we’ve got five games in 15 days. It’s a tough ask to play every minute of every game.”