Leeds United know they are no longer in control of their own fate as they approach the final weekend of Premier League action. Beat Tottenham Hotspur and they will give themselves a chance of survival but they need results at Goodison Park and the King Power Stadium to go their way, too, if they’re to move out of the bottom three.
The odds are stacked against them but it’s not impossible and Leeds must do all they can to keep their side of the bargain on Sunday afternoon. As such, it’s pivotal that Allardyce gets his selection right at Elland Road and it seems as though he has decisions to make across the board.
Here’s a look at the selection calls Allardyce will be mulling over ahead of the final match of the campaign.
Joel Robles was one of Leeds’ best players against West Ham United on Sunday and he’ll be the man between the sticks undoubtedly on Sunday afternoon. Ahead of him, it seems the head coach has decisions to make. Junior Firpo is available after serving his one game ban and he could be set to step straight back into the fold following Pascal Struijk’s struggles at the London Stadium.
Firpo has hardly been a picture of consistency himself of late, but he is still considered to be the club’s first choice left-back at this stage. Changes could come centrally, too. Max Wober looks likely to see out the season in the starting XI, but Liam Cooper could also return to the line-up to provide leadership and poise at the back when the Whites need it most.
The skipper was only fit enough to be named on the bench last weekend but he may well be ready to step into the starting XI and do his bit this time around. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Robin Koch return to the backline, either, given his struggles in midfield at the London Stadium.
If either Koch or Cooper were to return to the backline, that would give Allardyce a choice to make at right-back. Neither Rasmus Kristensen, nor Luke Ayling shined in east London, but you’d have to say Ayling’s experience might see him edge any selection dilemma.
Leeds have had three permanent head coaches this season and none of them have been able to settle on a midfield strategy capable of bringing the best out of Leeds’ roster. Allardyce’s three-man midfield looked promising enough in the second half of the draw with Newcastle United, but it was simply non-existent against the Hammers and once again changes have to be considered.
As mentioned above, Koch struggled at the London Stadium, but so did Adam Forshaw and Weston McKennie. So what options does the head coach have?
Well, Marc Roca overcame a knee injury to step off the bench against the Hammers but given the manner in which Allardyce spoke about his subs on Sunday, that change might not enthuse him. The same can be said for Sam Greenwood and even Brenden Aaronson. Both Archie Gray and Darko Gyabi are away with England U17s and U20s respectively at present, ruling out the notion of giving the kids a go.
Jack Harrison can play in the middle, of course, but it seems likely that he’ll be utilised further up the field on Sunday, while Struijk has been known to play as a defensive midfielder before, too. Options are limited for the 68-year-old, but solving that conundrum could be the difference between three points and a defeat against Spurs.
A lot depends on the fitness of two key men here and Allardyce will be keeping his fingers crossed for good news this week. Patrick Bamford picked up a hamstring injury in the first half of the clash against West Ham and that was enough to force him off the field, while Rodrigo played the full 90 minutes through the pain of a plantar fascia problem.
Both players must be rated as doubts at this stage, but once again, Allardyce’s options beyond the senior pair are extremely limited. The head coach sent a rather clear message regarding his thoughts on Georginio Rutter by refusing to look his way when Leeds needed to make the change up front on Sunday.
His hand may be forced this time around, though, if he is to be without Bamford and Rodrigo. Wilfried Gnonto can play through the middle, but he was less than impressive in the capital, while Harrison, Greenwood and young Sonny Perkins represent striker options.
Harrison will more than likely keep his spot on the left wing, though, and while the right side is dependent on the fitness of Bamford and Rodrigo once again, it seems likely at this point that one of Gnonto or Crysencio Summerville will get the nod.