Five changes for me in what felt like one of the most enjoyable Leeds United sides to put together in weeks. The opposition, rest period either side of the game and plethora of options meant it was actually a challenge to get the right names in.
Ultimately, we all want to see progression in the FA Cup, so rather than a blanket 11 changes with legs rested, this is the strongest side available with one or two sensible switches ahead of what could be a physical game. Wilfried Gnonto and Rodrigo, for example, are the first attacking names on a Leeds teamsheet at the moment, but after a lot of minutes, this is an easy one to pull them out of.
Given how frequently Gnonto has been chopped down by Premier League defenders, you dread to think what Accrington Stanley’s fellas could do with a mistimed rattler into the Italian’s shins. It’s not a risk worth taking with a pivotal February around the corner.
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Rasmus Kristensen and Junior Firpo can build on their decent cup performances in the Cardiff City replay. Firpo, especially, feels like he may be on the cusp of some good form and this may be an afternoon he can cut loose.
With no risks being taken on Liam Cooper or Tyler Adams, Luke Ayling would continue with the armband and add some EFL know-how to the middle of defence. Robin Koch, banned next weekend, keeps ticking over alongside him.
In the absence of Adams and Adam Forshaw, Max Wober can both shuffle forward into midfield and keep working on his sharpness after a promising few displays in white. We saw how much he relished that advanced role down at Cardiff.
Now for the fun. Luis Sinisterra, Georginio Rutter and Patrick Bamford are all ready for starts, but how do you combine them? I’d go with a 4-4-2 which looks more like a 4-2-3-1 as the wingers attack and Rutter drops off as the second striker.
Dispatches from Germany suggest the Frenchman likes playing as a second forward. Rutter can dovetail with Bamford while Jack Harrison offers a robust option off the left or right, whichever he and Sinisterra prefer.
Beren’s XI: Meslier; Kristensen, Ayling, Koch, Firpo; Roca, Wober; Sinisterra, Rutter, Harrison; Bamford.
There’s no two ways about it, Leeds have to go strong if they are to limit the probability of an embarrassing upset at the Wham Stadium. The Whites probably made too many changes at Cardiff City in the last round, but a slip up here could have damaging knock-on effects to morale.
Illan Meslier gets the nod for me in a bid to keep him ticking over and I’d have him behind a backline that features Rasmus Kristensen, Robin Koch, Max Wober and Junior Firpo. Koch and Wober performed so well together against Brentford and I want to see that partnership given the chance to grow and flourish.
Kristensen gets the nod as a way of managing Ayling’s game time, while Firpo has fared relatively well in recent appearances and I wouldn’t mind seeing him given another go on the left. I wouldn’t be risking Tyler Adams, given his importance to the side, meaning Sam Greenwood comes into my midfield to play alongside Marc Roca and Brenden Aaronson.
This is the perfect chance to give Georginio Rutter a run-out, too. Wham Stadium might be a bit of a culture shock for the Frenchman, but he’ll be itching to impress and given the chance, he could be the difference maker with his driving runs and ability on the ball.
This is the perfect opportunity to give Patrick Bamford a start. The England international is confident at the minute and a goal or two against the Lancashire outfit would certainly go down well.
I’m keen to see Luis Sinisterra given game time off the bench, potentially even entering the fray as a planned change at half-time, while Sonny Perkins should be given minutes, too.
Will’s XI: Meslier; Kristensen, Koch, Wober, Firpo; Greenwood, Roca, Aaronson; Rutter, Bamford, Harrison.
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