Leeds United face Sunderland at what will undoubtedly be another packed Elland Road on Saturday. It is another game closer to the end of a disappointing season.
It was a season that promised much for Leeds United fans, fans who had been hoping the club would build on the solid foundations laid down by a side who’d battled to finish in 7th place – one place outside the Championship play-off picture.
In fairness it started out that way, the Whites going on an unbeaten streak at the season’s opening and briefly topping the table. Awful form followed the first defeat against Millwall, a slide arrested around Christmas time with some more-than-welcome wins.
Brief respite was brought by that festive spirit, for 2018 has been thin for fortune, Leeds having won only two games this calendar year. It is also a season that has brought a spate of injuries, decimating the options in places where the Whites are already stretched to threadbare. One area that has been felt the most is in the centre of defence.
Against the Black Cats, Leeds United might have to resort to dipping in to the Under-23 side’s pool of players, in Irish youngster Paudie O’Connor, to plug this gap. The Whites are likely without regular centre-backs Matthew Pennington, Liam Cooper and Conor Shaughnessy with injury taking its toll on the trio. This leaves United with only Sweden international Pontus Jansson as an option at the heart of an at-times faltering Leeds United defence.
Partnering Jansson with O’Connor is something that doesn’t worry the Swede, who captained his country in a recent friendly fixture. On this potential weekend pairing, Jansson said when asked of what he thought of O’Connor, “Really good to be honest. I’ve seen him train a couple of times, he’s good with us, I’ve also seen him also in one Under-23 game so I try to scout the players. But he is good, he has confidence, looked like me when I was young, wants to take risks with the ball which is good, but also is clever, strong, fast, so he can be a good defender.”
Leeds United will be looking to bounce back from Tuesday’s 2-0 defeat away at Fulham, with victory over a floundering Sunderland. Three points from Leeds United could hammer another nail into the rapidly closing coffin lid of the Mackems 2017/18 Sky Bet Championship campaign.