Garry Monk may try to minimise the risk of key players serving simultaneous bans tonight as Leeds travel to St Andrews for a Championship clash against mid-table Birmingham City.

Luke Ayling and Kyle Bartley are on 9 yellow cards each, while Pontus Jansson has picked up 13 yellow cards this season, leaving all three players close to a mandatory ban – a two game suspension for Ayling and Bartley if they pick up another yellow, while Jansson will serve three should he pick up two more. Jansson’s ban is inevitable at this point and would arguably be better served sooner rather than later, Bartley and Ayling however can avoid bans if they manage to make it to the end of the match against QPR next week without picking up any more yellow cards.

Garry Monk’s looming defensive crisis has been dealt further blows with injuries to Tyler Denton and Lewie Coyle, meaning that in a worst-case scenario outcome where Jansson, Ayling and Bartley do serve consecutive bans, Leeds would be left with Liam Cooper, Gaetano Berardi and the soon-to-return Charlie Taylor as the club’s only fit and available defensive players.

It’s for that reason, Garry Monk may choose to mitigate some of the risk by leaving Kyle Bartley or Luke Ayling on the bench tonight. It’d nudge them closer to the cut-off point for a ban (v QPR) and should anyone else be banned in the meantime, we’d at least be guaranteed to have a starting pair of centre-backs for the next game. Since there’s no cut-off point for a 15 yellow card ban, Jansson is better off playing every available minute to ensure his ban is served before the play-offs.

Of course, this would mean fielding an inarguably weakened side tonight. Leeds have been at their best defensively this season when Bartley and Jansson have lined up alongside each other, but Monk is undoubtedly considering all possible permutations, which makes predicting the starting XI tricky.

If you’re a betting man (or woman) our partners offer some great sign up bonuses you can use for tonight’s game. While Leeds are walking a tightrope with the defensive situation and Monk may make some sensible changes to ensure he can field a decent defensive line up over the coming weeks, I still fancy Leeds for the win. Birmingham are comfortably mid-table and have very little left to play for this season. There’s an 18 point gap between the two sides for good reason and so long as Leeds turn up and put in a decent performance, they should prove too strong for the Midlands outfit.

St Andrews has been a happy hunting ground for Leeds in recent times with the Whites undefeated in their last three visits. The last of those visits was in April 2016 when Stuart Dallas scored a brace to guide Leeds to a 2-1 win.

The bad news for Leeds is that Birmingham’s top scorer Lukas Jutkiewicz is back from injury in time for this fixture, while Garry Monk serves a one-game touchline ban following his altercation with Huddersfield Town boss David Wagner.

In other news, Leeds’ trip to St’ James Park has (rather predictably) been moved for live coverage. Expect Sky Sports to seriously milk the tie between “two former GIANTS of the Premier League” over the coming weeks. The good news for travelling fans is that the fixture now takes place on a Friday night (April 14th), which means we can all go out and party/drowned our sorrows in Newcastle afterwards.

  • John

    Saving players for the play-offs, former giants of the Premier League? I think you need to calm down.

    • TSS

      The second part was predicting how Sky will bill it.

  • Matthew

    I think we all saw failing to strengthen in this area as something that will bite us in the arse when this happens. One half decent CB would have allayed fears.

  • Thommohawk

    You don’t field a weaker side to avoid potential suspension, that’s what changing formation is for in the event someone key is suspended and if need be.

    I mean devils advocate, suppose we do field Cooper in place of Bartley tonight against Birmingham and he (Cooper) gives away a penalty and gets sent off and we lose the match? Well that’s 3 points gone straight away which could’ve been avoided had we opted to field our far better defender who could have played and scored late on….both scenarios have happened before this season which is why you always go with your better players IF available.

    You should only be fielding a weaker side if you absolutely haven’t got any alternative option.